Widgets are simple boxes you embed on your site that display chunks of content from outside sources.Â Most widgets are free, customizable and easy to use by pasting in code. These are a few you might consider using on your site.
1. Digg: Whether you display a list of most-dugg stories from the whole Web or from your individual site, the Digg widget is a great way for your readers to see popular stories. I first saw this widget in action on LATimes.com article templates.Â You can filter custom stories for different sections or different blogs on your site. Example: If you have sports blog, customize the widget to embed sports stories; if you have a tech blog, embed technology headlines, etc.
2. Weather: For those of you with College Publisher, this won’t be necessary (you have a weather update in the top right of the CMN bar). But those of you who have moved away from College Publisher may want to look into using a weather widget. The more localized you can make your site, the better. And while your readers may not turn to your site as the No. 1 weather spot, it’s still a handy tool to have. AccuWeather, WeatherBug and the Weather Channel each have widget options.
3.Â Twitter: If you’re simly retweeting the headlines straight from your articles, a Twitter widget will be redundant. But if you’re using your Twitter to maintain a dilogue with your readers, a Twitter widget will expose all your readers to that conversation and perhaps even compel them to join in. (Read more about how college media is using Twitter).
Twitter has a few different options for embedding. You can go with something flashy or embed straight HTML so that your CSS will match and it will look cohesive. You can find the embed option on your settings page.
4. Your blog(s): An easy way to promote your blog from your homepage is by using a widget.Â Widgetbox makes this process simplest, and if you pay $3.99 a month for a pro account, you can make a “blidget” with tabs to promote your headlines, Flickr photos, YouTube channel and Twitter all in the same widget. Your readers can embed your widget onto their sites/blogs if they so desire.
5. Share This: Share This lets you take advantage of the interconnected nature of the web by allowing your readers to quickly and easily share your content over dozens of social networks.Â It’s a tool you absolutely must add to all your blogs as well. You can get quick stats on the back end about which articles are being shared and over which networks.
A word of caution about widgets: Don’t get carried away. Too many widgets can make your site slow and cluttered. If you use multiple widgets, spread them out and place them in relevant locations. And, as always, if you have any favorites, links us in the comments.