Getting More Out of Widgets!

Wow – thanks everyone. Your response, support and feedback has been incredible! We have set up this page to keep track of your feedback on what you’d like to see covered!

As you can see there are some really great topic areas to get us started. Which got me thinking! The Edublogger is about community, and helping each other. Perhaps you have already covered some of these topics in your own posts? Or you would like to cover a topic(s) in your own post(s)? Let us know by posting the link in the comments below, and we will let the community know!examples of widgets

Meanwhile lets start working through the list! Many readers express interest in widgets, so I have decided this is a good place to start!

What are Widgets?

Web terminology makes it so much harder when people are starting their online journey; suddenly you being bombarded all these foreign terms and widgets are a classic example! In simple terms widgets are mini web applications that you can put onto your website (i.e. blog, wiki, homepage) e.g. the Clustrmap on the side bar is a widget.

How To Embed A Widget

People use widgets to add extra features to their website. But be warned! Choose widgets for your blog wisely because they can clutter your side menu which will distract your readers. My list of “must have widgets” on a blog include:

  1. Search - so readers can easily search your blog
  2. Email subscription – for readers who prefer to be notified of new posts by email
  3. RSS feed - not all feed readers are able to detect the RSS feed from the site URL; this is why I add a Feed burner feed to my sites to make it easier for readers to subscribe
  4. Categories and Tag Cloud – to make it easier for readers to locate posts on your blog. We will be writing a post soon to explain the difference between categories and tag clouds; and why/how each is used

I also like to add a widget that links to information on how to be notified of new posts; to make it easier for new people to understand how to subscribe to blogs.

Edublogs Widgets

Removing WidgetsCould I Mess up My blog Embedding Widgets?

Don’t worry! Widgets won’t break your blog. Any widgets you add can easily be removed, and won’t effect existing widgets in your side bar.

To try out widget drag and drop the widget from your Available Widgets to your Side Bar, then click Save Changes and view your site. To remove a widget just drag it from your Side Bar back to your Available Widget area and then click Save Changes.

What Widgets Should I Add To My Blog?

Widgets are PERSONAL. We all have our favourites.

Clustrmap

Many educators like to add Clustrmaps, especially those with younger students, because the students loving seeing the red dots grow as their readers, from around the World, visit their site.

Other common widgets bloggers use include:

  • Flickr – shows the latest photos you have uploaded to your Flickr Account
  • Del.icio.us – shows the latest sites you have bookmarked in your del.icio.us account
  • Vod Pod Videos – shows the latest videos you have saved to your VodPod account
  • Google Reader Shared Items – for latest items you share in your Google Reader
  • Twitter – shows your latest updates from Twitter

Not all widgets can be embedded in Edublogs because some types of code and code that includes Java Script can cause problems. For example, you can’t embed a clip of your shared items in Google Reader because the code includes Java

Google Reader shared items

Script however you can still embed by using an RSS widget!

And if you want even more widgets, don’t forget you can grab some from Widgetbox! This video explains how to embed Widgetbox widgets into Edublogs.

FINAL THOUGHT

For those struggling to embed widgets we hope these “how to” tips have helped! For everyone else we hope that you find these tips useful when demonstrating to new people.

Please leave a comment to let us know how you go, and if you need any help with widgets I haven’t mentioned.

If you are enjoying reading this blog, please consider Subscribing For Free!

Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

90 Responses

  1. charlie says:

    Great article. I think I like your characterization of a widget – a small thing you add. When you asked earlier, I was thinking only of things that are javascript. But, if you think of widgets as something that _do_ something simple, then, yeah, search, delicious, rss, and all, are really useful thingies to add to a site.

    You rock.

  2. mrsolson says:

    Great intro to widgets! One of the things I struggle with when using widgets is making them look “right” on my sidebars, not all fit within the parameters as I switch from theme to theme and sometimes they get all squished together (my twit this and clustrmap). Is there something in the code I can change to make them look better?

    Thanks for all of your help, Sue! I’ve been scrambling to get working on my challenges for the past few days :-)

    Kate Olson
    http://googtweetblog.edublogs.org

  3. Sue,

    Your explanation was the best one I’ve ever heard about widgets and how to use them. Your instructions for Clustrmap were just what I needed.

    I’d like to play around with my widgets, but I’m fearful of losing everything I’ve got there now if I mess-up. For those of us who have that concern, how do we get all our original stuff back if we make a mistake. Is there anyway to see how it looks first without saving changes?

    Larry

  4. Sue,

    One more thing. It would be great to have a lesson on how to put a feedburner feed in a blog like you do.

    Larry

  5. blogwalker says:

    Sue,

    I’m with Larry on wanting a lesson on how to do the feedburner thing.

    Gail Desler

    Love the widgets explanation and screenshots!!

  6. Hi Sue… great step-by-step set of explanations, and of course we are delighted that you chose ClustrMaps as an example.

    We just wanted to let you know that very soon we’ll be making ClustrMaps available using the method of ‘drag-this-widget-into-your-sidebar’ (as opposed to ‘register, drag a text widget into your sidebar, copy and paste the code’), which will save a few steps and make your first two great illustrations nearly identical… stay tuned!!!

    Thanks again…

    -The ClustrMaps Team

  7. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks Charlie – you also rock! I’m glad you like my description of a widget – it can be a hard concept for new people.

    Kate – I find when I change themes that I end up compromising between features because each theme offers different advantages/disadvantages. Your current theme looks nice :). With your current theme your clustrmap looks fine. Certainly you can change the size of widgets from Widgetbox but not sure about all widgets. I haven’t had an issue with needing to resize widgets because as a blogger you should ideally minimise widgets on a blog to the absolute essential. However I am sure that when using blogs with students there are definitely some widgets you would want to add to engage them.

    Thanks Larry for your feedback on my instructions. Reading your concerns I have added further information to the post to assure you that any widget you add can easily be removed and won’t affect your existing widgets. I’m really pleased that you raised your concerns because others would have similar concerns and it was important for me to address them in this post. Please let me know if this has allayed your concerns and if you have managed to add a clustrmap (in which case Alice needs to start baking the cookies for you :) ).

    Gail and Larry – I knew when I added the information about Feedburner that people would like information about why you use it and how to add it to your site. So will add it to the list of what you’d like to see covered. And thanks for all the feedback.

    Hi ClustrMaps team – happy to do a step-by-step instructions for ClustrMaps because Clustrmaps is a widget that most students, and educators, like to see on blogs. Look forward to hearing about your changes to Clustrmaps.

  8. helenotway says:

    Thanks for adding this article about embedding widgets. I was struggling with a Clustr Map and Voki avatar and now have embedded them with success. The instructions were simple to follow, especially having the images.
    Thanks again.

  9. dstrasser says:

    Suggestion: a follow-up post on how to (and the limits to) customizing widgets. For example, I’d like to include on my sidebar a simple link to my Twitter page (no updates).

  10. Sue Waters says:

    Excellent suggestion Dina (dstrasser) – I will definitely follow up this post with further information on widgets.

  11. tasteach says:

    Hi Sue,
    Your description regarding widgets was so simple, I followed it all …lol I have now included drop down menus and search widgets on my blog.

    But more questions, even though I don’t want to add any more widgets at this moment, there are some below that allow more than one, such as categories and text. What would you use extra category widgets for? Text I can see for putting in code for maps etc and perhaps membership of forums like Classroom 2.0

  12. Sue Waters says:

    Glad to hear the instructions have helped you customise your widgets more Sue (Tasteach). Very good question about why extra categories widget – no idea as you only need one category widget. Definitely always handy to have extra text boxes.

  13. donnaj says:

    Your article helped me understand widgets better and I have been successful in putting some widgets on my EduBlog. However I have had a problem with Flickr. I put it on and it added some pictures by default but when I went to Flickr and went through uploading my pictures etc and I even found the blog it area but it did not have EduBlog as an associate. What can I do? Any help will be welcome.

  14. Rafa Ribas says:

    Maybe I am being a clueless newbie, but…
    After inspiration from this post, I went to have a first go at my sidebar playing with the widgets rather than the theme defaults. I put a few things up and I looked at my site again… only to find my Blogroll had gone. I went back and looked through the available widgets in the box and I couldn’t find it! I pulled up “links”, but it didn’t have any customisable options, and indeed it did not seem to show on the site. Am I missing something really obvious here?
    Any help appreciated.

  15. Rafa Ribas says:

    OK, so I am a clueless newbie… The links widget had done the work, but for some reason it was not showing up on my site even though I clicked the link – it was probably still using a cached version of the page…
    Feel free to ignore, and delete if appropriate, my previous comment and / or this one.

  16. Sue Waters says:

    Sorry Helen somehow I missed your comment. It may have been that I was writing my responses as you posted yours. My apologies. Fantastic news that you have now embedded both Clustrmaps and Voki; and the instructions have helped.

    Hi Donna – Glad that my post has helped you with some widgets. The issue you have is that the Flickr widget for Edublogs grabs your latests photos and doesn’t let you choose which ones to link to. There are Flickr Widgets that will let you specify Flickr sets that you can link to however you can’t use them with Edublogs due to the Javascript issue. However my next post will explain alternatives to linking to photos which may well be how you can solve your problem. Specially if there is only certain photos you want displayed.

    Rafa – the blogroll is linked to the Link widget which is really frustrating because regardless of if you are a newbie or more experienced it is not obvious. I hope to talk about the link widget in my next post, and looking at your blog I think you may have solved the problem. Please feel free at any time to ask questions.

  17. librarylady says:

    I would like to have a count of visitors – is there an easy widget?

  18. wvskphillips says:

    Why are some widgets available on some themes and not available on others?

  19. This was exactly what I needed this morning! Thanks for the great tips. I love edublogs.

  20. Bonnie says:

    For some crazy reason I’m having trouble finding my correct RSS feed on Flickr to post my recent photos on my flickr widget. What am I doing wrong?
    BOnnie

  21. Bonnie says:

    For some crazy reason I’m having trouble finding my correct RSS feed on Flickr to post my recent photos on my flickr widget. What am I doing wrong? I’m also having trouble creating an avatar for my blog. I can upload a photo and it shows up in the Avatar windows but there’s a error message.
    BOnnie

  22. lev2000 says:

    I am in the same boat as Bonnie (how’s the water?). I too, can upload a photo, it shows up in the avatar windows, but then am directed to an error page. I was so pumped to add this feature and have struck out twice now. What am I doing wrong?

  23. blk1 says:

    I was able to get my photo in my side bar in the right size. Shouldn’t I be able to move that correctly sized photo in as my avatar? I
    Bonnie

  24. James says:

    Hi Guys,

    If you’re having problems with avatars please swing by the forums for help: http://edublogs.org/forums/ and let us know what kind of image you’re trying to upload, how big it is and any error messages you’re getting.

    Cheers, James

  25. blk1 says:

    Okay,
    I had some success. I was able to follow directions and create an avatar for my blog. But when I try and use the same one for comments I the photo in the 4 different sized boxes but it doesn’t let me save it and doesn’t show up after a comment.
    Bonnie

  26. racebis says:

    Dear ladies and gentlemen: if you please open my blog you´ll see that the widgets on my sidebar went down to the bottom of the page.
    http://racebis.edublogs.org/wp-admin/
    How can I take them up to the top?
    Another question: I intended to delete some of the widgets doing what you say and did not work. I drag it to available widgets but they return to my sidebar.
    Another: How can I add my bubbleshare to the blog?
    Thank you in advance,
    Horacio Idarraga Gil.

  27. James says:

    Hi Horacio, please can you use the forums for stuff like this: http://edublogs.org/forums/ you’ll also probably find some good answers by searching (for exampel ‘sidebar bottom’) or ‘bubbleshare’ etc.

  28. Sue Waters says:

    Library Lady – if you want a display that shows number of site visitors I suggest you check out Stats Counter. You will need to sign up for an account and then choose the graphic counter option for your badge. Drag a text widget from your Available Widget area to your side bar and then add the code to a text widget. I’ve added a stats counter to this blog so hopefully by tomorrow you can see it working. In simple terms the difference between this and Clustrmaps is Clustrmaps gives you a visual representation of your visitors while you can use Stats counter to provide a numerical counter. However if you want a counter that shows visitors usage in terms of which posts interest them – then you are better with Google Analytics which I will be posting about soon.

    Sorry wvskphillips – that is the frustrating part of themes. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Thanks Frieda – we are glad you are enjoying 0ur tips and Edublogs.

  29. kevin77 says:

    Thanks for the intro to widgets. I think of them as small modules that can be added to a web page to easily add cool functionality.

    Great examples of clustr map and other widgets.

  30. racebis says:

    Dear Sue. Thakn you for sending me your friend´s James and Kevin messages. They haven´t solved my problem, but it is good to see people trying to help other people. As Bonnie and Lev2000 I am in the same boat and the water is too cold. As I said before, my problem is that the widgets in my side bar went down to the botton of the page and I´d like to know how to take them up to the top.
    Warm hugs, Horacio.

  31. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Kevin – glad you liked our intro to widgets. Like your definition of a widget.

    Hi Horacio — based on the information in the forum it probably has to do with the width. I have checked your site in both Internet Explorer and Firefox – the sidebar is on the side. Can you tell me which widget you added that is making it go to the bottom?

  32. clustrmaps says:

    Hi again Sue… part of that link (item 38) above was so that we could test out our shiny new drag-and-drop widget, and I’m happy to report that now Edublogs.org users can use this much easier method.

    Here’s the main difference, primarily for brand new signups:

    Old (regular) method, no longer needed for Edublogs users: to get a thumbnail map on your blog, you needed to
    1. go to the ClustrMaps Get one! page
    2. link from there to the registration page
    3. fill in your URL and email
    4. submit
    5. check your email for your fresh password
    6. go to the Admin page
    7. sign in with URL and fresh password
    8. copy the HTML
    9. edit your blog sidebar by dragging a text widget (or similar)
    10. paste the HTML you copied at step 8.

    NEW (drag-and-drop widget) way, available to Edublogs.org users:
    1. edit your blog sidebar by dragging the ClustrMaps widget [similar to 9 above]
    2. open the widget’s options to fill in your email – the URL is already there, and save it

    That’s it… the no-brainer simplicity of true widgets… we only ask for the email address so that we can provide personalised user support in case of questions or difficulties, and also to allow a route for people to go in their Admin pages on ClustrMaps.com and edit some of the options if they want (more will be coming soon, like customised look), and to upgrade to ClustrMaps+

    Hope this is helpful – enjoy!

  33. Mrs. Curtis says:

    Hello, I need help! I have tried to create my edublog and would like to put my picture on the blog. I know nothing about this process and I am so frustrated that I am about to give up, however, I am determined to make this work! I followed the example where you put in Kevin’s picture through to step 5. The picture has shown up, as it did on Kevin’s. Now how do I get it on the actual blog page? Now, I only hope that I can find this page again to get the answer. (Haha)

  34. Mrs. Curtis says:

    Oh my gosh, how funny, I tried to get my picture for my avitar yesterday, I can’t believe I did it.

  35. Mrs. Curtis says:

    I just realized that I said Kevin. Really it was Larry ment. Silly Me.

  36. aboatman says:

    I really like the screen shots. What program did you use to create them? Very clear and easy to follow instructions.

  37. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Mrs Curtis – you done well and manage to add your comment avatar. The easiest way to add your photo to your blog would be to use your photo for your blog avatar and then drag the Avatar widget onto the sidebar. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help.

    Lots of people ask about my screen shots – Andrew – I use SnagIT – worth every cent I paid.

  38. Hello I have been using widgetbox for 6 months without a problem until now. I have been following the process of copying the panel id but have now found that widgetbox no longer have this option. Does anyone know how I can embed widgetbox widgets now?

    Thanks, Andrew

  39. blogwalker says:

    Hello Mr Weatherill. I had the same problem yesterday, but I was able to find the fix in the EB Forum, post = http://edublogs.org/forums/topic.php?id=5184&replies=6.

    Dave, from Widgetbox.com jumped in to answer tc65′s same question.

    Love this Edublogger community:-)

  40. VPeck says:

    Hi Sue

    My Primary School Colleagues and I are really struggling with the installation of widgets from Widgetbox. We’ve finally had time to update our pages for our new classes and wanted to change some of the fun “reward time” widgets we had successfully installed last year. Tetris, Tic Tac Toe, Hero Lab Class Pets etc. What has happened to the panel id code that the video showed us (and still does) how to install last year? None of us have been successful in placing any widgets on our page this year??????? I can’t even see anything in the codes that resembles the old panel id. Are we missing something??????? Nothing seems to work. How do we install widgetbox widgets now?
    Thanks Vanessa

  41. Gail Desler says:

    Hello VPECK,

    If you follow the directions give by Dave (from Widgetbox.com) in the EB Forum – http://edublogs.org/forums/topic.php?id=5184&replies=6 – you’ll find that the ID panel is now the string of numbers/letters and the end of the code, right before “.gif”

    Dave has laid out the directions in 15 steps, but they are easy to follow.

  42. Vanessa Peck says:

    Thanks guys, I’ll give it a go.

  43. VPeck says:

    No luck as yet and it’s driving me crazy! Will keep trying….

  44. dickwillis says:

    I’d also be grateful for guideance on how to put a feed burner on my blog. I want folk to be able to subsribe to my blog by RSS feed and I dragged the RSS widget into my left sidebar together with the google search widget. I saved this configuration. When I view the site, the google widget is visible but not the rss feed. As usual, I’m doing something wrong or have missed something blindingly obvious – but I don’t know what!

  45. caferhetorica says:

    I just wanted to drop by and tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your blog. I wish there had been a blog like this around when I started blogging. I just did an explanation of blidgets on my blog. I thought I’d drop by and (self-promote) let your readers know that if they want to know more about using blidgets on their blog, they can follow the permanent link to the post below.

    http://caferhetorica.edublogs.org/2008/03/10/what-exactly-is-a-blidget/

    Keep up the great work!

    Katt

  46. Paula says:

    I’m struggling to get the clustermap on my edublog wildstuff. I’ve followed all the instructions which I find quite confusing… but no map appears. Could it have something to do with slow loading speeds in Kenya?

  47. clustrmaps says:

    Hi Paula… there are two distinct sets of instructions here:

    http://clustrmaps.wordpress.com/html-setup/clustrmaps-on-edublogs/

    The key is that you want to end up with a small amount of HTML code in the ‘sidebar’ of your blog, for example underneath where it says ‘Latest Post’ on your current blog. To do that you need to ‘add a widget’, which either of the two posted methods will offer.

    Have another go, and let us know how it goes.

    All the best,

    -CJ on behalf of the ClustrMaps Team

  48. clustrmaps says:

    p.s. by the way, Paula, there is NO effect that would result from being in Kenya… the ClustrMaps thumbnail map is very small and displays very fast – all the hard work is done on our own servers… hope you get it sorted out… let us know…

    -CJ ;-)

  49. Good explanation! Clear and easy to understand for new people on the web.

  50. leighnewton says:

    I added the Tag Cloud widget but all I got was a heading and no tag cloud. What am I missing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.