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.

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90 thoughts on “Getting More Out of Widgets!

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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.

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