Widget Overflow

Those of us that actively use widgets have a problem. There are too many freaking widgets! I mean seriously, you can only cram so many widgets into your posts, sidebars, and profile pages.

This problem is only going to get worse as more services are made available a la carte on the desktop, web, and mobile as widgets. So what’s the solution? Widget management tools. Specifically, we need tools to:

1. Import widgets from 3rd party sites
2. Organize widgets into sets
3. Publish widgets, or widget sets, to internal and external platforms

The only company that I have seen who is directly attacking this problem is Snipperoo. That being said, there are several folks attacking this problem from different angles. Most notably, start page platforms like Google enable the organization of widgets published through their gallery.

This space is only going to get more heated. Ultimately, some derivative of digital lifestyle aggregators with widget management capabilities will serve as the central point of management for web services – displacing traditional web portals as the de facto gateways to the web.

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hoomanradfar Written by:

  • Spot on, as usual, Hooman. We should definitely get together sometime and talk about where Mesa is heading with web/desktop unification and widget management (which we believe can be driven quite effectively from the desktop side). I'd love to get your thoughts on our strategy.

  • Hooman Radfar

    Danny, thanks for stopping by. I look forward to connecting to discuss your work. I think that you have some great ideas as well. Talk to you soon.

  • Aaagh – heresy, heresy. You can never have too many widgets.
    Of course, you're right in that, as there are more and more widgets available, it gets harder and harder to manage them within the little space that our blog sidebars give us. So we will need some new forms of public widget space that integrate with our current forms.
    In some ways, the 'start page' companies like Netvibes and Pageflakes do some way towards this – though as long as they remain seprate silos they don't really solve the problems.
    We're interested in platforms that allow users to expand their widget display space. We're expecting people to experiment with our API to deliver various approaches. And, as I've said before, we're looking at various ways to allow more efficient use of sidebar space with tools such as random widget insert and rotation and drop-down sidebar menus. I'm also interested in offering an option for visitors to choose what sort of/groups of/categories of widgets they actually get shown – on the basis that you might as well allow the viewer to see something they actually want to see.
    All in all, a mighty fertile space with some pressing issues – between us we will solve them.

  • Hooman Radfar

    HA HA HA. Netvibes and Pageflakes are making some excellent moves in this space. Moreover, your team at Snipperoo also has good approaches. What I like about the Start Page approach is that they have nice layout manager tools, as well as publication capabilities. That said, I do like the "free range" capabilities that Snipperoo champions as well. I think that all of these approaches will ultimately blend over time to create a better aggregator platform. Marc Canter and others have looked at this from the social angle, but I think that – ultimately – we are all moving towards the same unified information architecture.

  • Peter Mellen

    I ran across Widgetbox while I was looking for ClearSpring. Ed Anuff is behind that one, and he was successful with Epicentric. Would you put Widgetbox into the same category as Sniperoo?

  • Hooman Radfar

    Peter, that is a fair question. In some regards, I think that Widgetbox is similar to Snipperoo. Specifically, they both leverage a paneling system for end user widget management. That said, I believe that is where the similarity stops. Snipperoo is solely focused on end user widget management tools and enables users to arrange any type of widget. Ivan often refers to these types of widgets as free range widgets. Widgetbox is more vertically integrated and offers tools for both widget distributors and widget consumers. Pretty different approaches. Do you agree?

  • You're right about the problem getting worse – too many widgets on screen without structure leads to "widget sprawl", with lowered usefulness, user experience quality, and relevance. This is a problem I've seen in quite a few portal-style user experiences built under the heading of dashboards.

    You mentioned the need for tools to organize widgets into sets. The article linked below is the first in a series that shares a system for organizing widgets into sets. It's one of the solutions I've used to help manage sprawl in a variety of portals and tile (widget) based user experiences.

    When you see tile, swap in the word widget – these pieces were written for the portal perspective, but the lessons and solution are the same for widgets.

    A summary of the complete set of building blocks is available in the poster that appears here:


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