While writing a blog post about how to develop a website in 5 easy steps, I started to think about the importance of website widgets.
Are you, like me, fascinated by widgets?
I am always on the look-out for new ones in order to increase my website’s functionality.
A few years ago (before I started designing websites), I kept hearing the word ‘widget’ and I wondered just what on earth everyone was on about. At that point, the only widget I had come across was nestled in the bottom of a can of beer.
I was intrigued to discover that a website widget was in fact nothing to do with beverages.
Of course, in this context at least, widgets are pieces of software that can be embedded onto websites to add functionality.
These days, there are thousands of website widgets on offer - and many of them are completely free to use.
In that previous blog post, I listed some of the widgets that I either used myself, planned to use in the future or have implemented for my clients.
I then thought that it would be a good idea to look at these widgets in more detail. However, as there are so many that I want to mention (and as I don't really want to fry your brain), I have decided to split this topic over two posts.
This blog post will cover those widgets that you can add to your website to boost your social media presence and engagement.
How Do You Add A Widget?
Woah… before we get stuck in to all of the marvelous website widgets out there, a small note on how to use them.
If you see a widget that you would like to use, go to that widget’s website and you will find information on how you can customize code that you will then need to embed onto your website.
It is then (usually) a case of following a set of simple instructions and, within a very short space of time, you are set.
Typically, you add this code onto the <body> section of a certain page and/or into the <head> section of your website (to allow the widget to affect your entire website).
I design websites using Jimdo and installing widgets just couldn’t be easier. You simply copy the code and paste it into a Widget/HTML element and click save (sometimes you need to refresh your page in order to see if the widget is working).
One word of warning, however, be careful about the widgets that you use.
For example, if ever I see a widget that takes my fancy I ask around and do a Google search for reviews about that widget. My worry is that I will install code that interferes with my website’s design, performance or content.
If you are a Jimdo user (or if you are thinking about using Jimdo to create a website) you can take a look at their Tools Page to find the widgets that will work best.
Types Of Widgets
As I mentioned, there are so many widgets out there that I won’t be able to do justice to them all. As a result, I will narrow my focus onto widgets that I have used and widgets that are recommended by Jimdo.
These widgets fall into one of these 15 categories:
Online Shopping Tools
Booking & Events
Website Search Engines
- Online Back-Up
As I mentioned, this post will be dealing with social media widgets and I will cover the other widgets in my next blog.
Social Media Widgets
Many social media platforms offer a range of widgets to promote social sharing, enable website visitors to follow a person or brand and/or allow a business to display its social media activity directly on its own website.
I will now look at the widgets available in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + and LinkedIN. After that I will show you how I added the floating social media sharing buttons that you can see to your left.
Facebook - calls its widgets social plugins. There are quite a lot to choose from including:
Like Button - allows people to share pages and content from your site back to their Facebook profile with one
Share Button - allows people to share your content to Facebook
Follow Button - lets people follow you and your Facebook feed
Embedded Posts - allows you to add any public post from Facebook to your blog or website
Comments - allows people to comment on any piece of content on your website. This is something that many bloggers are
implementing instead of having a ‘comments’ widget such as Disqus (see my next widgets blog post for more information on Disqus)
Send Button - lets people privately send content on your website to their friends
Activity Feed - displays the most interesting recent activity taking place on your Facebook feed
Recommendations Feed - displays the most recommended content on your site
Like Box - a box version of the Like Button
- Facepile - a profile photo display of the people who have connected with your Facebook page.
Twitter also offers a number of widgets:
Tweet Button - to allow readers to share your content with other Twitter users
Follow Button - to allow visitors to your blog or website to follow you on Twitter
Embedded Tweets - brings content created on Twitter into your blog post or website
Embedded Video - brings video content created on Twitter into your blog post or website
Embedded Timelines - syndicates any public Twitter timeline to your website
Share Bookmarklet - allows you to share any webpage on Twitter
- Vine Video Embeds - brings content published on Vine into your blog or website.
It is important to consider the range of Pinterest widgets available as this platform is a huge driver of website traffic.
For example, I will often look for a 'Pin It' button on an image in a blog post that I am interested in. This means, in just a click of this button, I can save the post onto one of my Pinterest boards for future reference.
(FYI, If you are a Jimdo user, you can just select the Pinterest icon when adding an image and you are good to go!)
Pinterest widgets include:
Pin It Button - allows people to pin things directly from your website
Follow Button - allows people to follow you on Pinterest from your website
Pin Widget - enables you to embed one of your pins onto your blog post or website
Profile Widget - allows you to show up to 30 of your latest pins on your website. I use this widget on the Pic Presents homepage
- Board Widget - shows up to 30 pins from one of your Pinterest boards.
Instagram is fast becoming one of the most active and engaged social media platforms. You can display your Instagram images in a photo gallery on your blog or website by using a widget such as that offered by Snapwidget.
Snapwidget’s basic widget is free and allows you to filter your gallery by username or hashtag. You can display your images in a grid, slideshow or photo map. There is also a paid Pro version if you need extra functionality (and no ads).
Google + widgets are called 'buttons' and ‘badges’. You can add the following buttons to your website:
- +1 Button - allows your website visitors to recommend your content on Google and share it on Google+
- Share - add this button to your website to make content sharing to Google+ easy
- Snippet - you can customise the snippet that people will see when your page is shared with this widget
- Embedded Posts - you can embed your Google+ posts onto your website via this widget
- Follow - allows visitors to follow you on Google+
- Hangout - enables you to launch a Google+ Hangout directly from your site.
Meanwhile, there are three categories of Google+ badges and each come in a variety of sizes and designs:
Person - allows people to engage with you from clicking the badge
Pages - allows people to engage with your brand directly from the badge itself
- Community - allows visitors to your website to find your community and preview that community before choosing to join.
LinkedIn offers a number of widgets that it calls plugins. LinkedIn widgets include:
Share - allows a visitor to share your content to LinkedIn
Follow Company - enables a visitor to your site to then follow your company
Member Profile - allows you to display your LinkedIn profile on your website
Company Profile - allows you to display your LinkedIn company profile on your website
Jobs - shows a list of jobs that might be of interest
- Alumni Tool - allows you to enter your school's name and preview information about the students that went there.
Social Sharing Widgets
Many websites offer social sharing buttons. However, the thing that I found frustrating was just where to place them. In the sidebar? At the end of a blog post? In the footer? As I have a widescreen website design with no sidebar, I struggled to decide just where to pop these little buttons in.
That is why I love and use floating social media buttons that gently drift up and down with you as you consume content. After all, you never know when you might want to share something!
I use Shareaholic’s floating social media buttons. They were super easy to add to my site. You can also customise the text that people share. I didn’t realise this at first and my shares were going out without my brand name on them. Now I have amended this feature so that the share text includes ‘via PicPresents’ (see image below).
Shareaholic also offers a widget that will display a selection of related content on your website. This is used to great effect on blog pages, for example. I really like the idea of using a related content widget on my blog so that my readers can see the other posts that I have written on similar topics.
Jimdo recommends AddThis for its social media sharing buttons and related content widgets. You can customise your buttons and your related content options, display a bank of floating buttons and include a welcome bar.
I am quite tempted to try AddThis as it looks both simple (just one line of code and you are off) and impressive.
So there you have it. A comprehensive selection of social media widgets. Now all you need to decide is which one to use first!
Thanks for reading!
In my next post about widgets, I will look at a host of different tools that you can add to your website.
Take care, Jane x