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Google Gadgets: Five To Avoid, Five To Consider

Posted on 10.09.2006
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The availability of Google Gadgets (small applications that run on your own website - or any site for that matter) received plenty of superficial attention, but there has been little in the way of usable information for website owners and operators, namely which should be used and which you should probably avoid, and why. Adding functionality to your site is a wonderful idea (so kudos to Google for the offering) but not for every site on every occasion. Below is an outline of five gadget types to all out avoid and five you may want to consider.

Five Types You Don't And Will Never Need

Games: Unless you operate a gaming site, there's simply no reason to include a game gadget on your site. Isn't the purpose of your site to have them interact with YOUR Web pages? Hang Man, Pac Man and Tetris are entertaining additions to our daily lives, but they serve no purpose to the vast majority of sites other than distraction. And, if you're a website owner intent on having users USE you site then including game gadgets just isn't a good idea.

Time & Date: I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but on most computers the system tray presents a very simple and handy little clock which tells you what time it is. In fact, if you mouse over it, in most instances it will also show you the date. Granted, some of the time and date gadgets are visually attractive but not enough to warrant inclusion on a site. More stuff equals less focus.

Quotes & Verses: I'm all for using a relevant quote now and again, but to use someone else's gadget featuring another site's content seems sort of ridiculous. What if it is a really insightful quote - what would happen? The user will leave your site. That's right, one click and they're off somewhere else interacting with that other site. Nobody wants that, because the chances are slim that they'll return. It's called Web "browsing" for a reason.

Traffic Information: I may be ranting here, but why on earth would you put traffic conditions on a website? Here, in Chicago, traffic changes by the minute, nay, by the second! If I consult a website for traffic conditions and I take a separate route to get where I'm going just to find out that the initial route would have been better - what's the damage done? Aggravation - and aggravated users result in low sales, low readership, and minimal future interaction.

Translation - Global accessibility is a wonderful thing but your site's content was developed in a specific language and is probably read by users of that language and only that language. So while having your last weblog post featuring a PayPerPost sponsor machine translated into Urdu is quite cutting edge, it's probably unnecessary. Urdu speakers will most likely search their favorite sites in thier native tongue. Besides, if someone that speaks/reads Urdu is reading your website/blog in Pakistan, chances are they searched for your site in your language anway.

Five Google Gadget Types to Consider if You Can't Build Your Own
I'd like to emphasize that if you can't build your own gadgets for use on your website, then the following present some excellent functionalities you might want to consider integrating. Each of the five listed below provide benefits to the user/visitor of your site.

Free Text Messages : This little gadget will enable site visitors to send free SMS text messages to the USA and Canada, and inexpensive messages to the rest of the world. While it may not be for everyone, I can see plenty value in enabling a visitor with a way to send a quick text message to a blogger or a consultant - these people need to be in touch with prospects. 

Picasa Web Photos : There are lots of reasons to include photos on your site and an equal number of resources to enable you to include them on your website pages. This Google gadget enables visitors to browse your Picasa web photos from your homepage. It may be ideal for community-centric sites or those who want to put forth the image of hosting a community.

SiteMeter Stats : What has the whole concept of Web 2.0 provided users and website owners? For one, a greater sense of community.  Providing information about your site statistics and your most recent referrals is an excellent way to build community, as it lets individual users know they are not alone in visiting your site. Who knows ... it may even encourage them to interact more intimately with your site.

Geo-Based Chat: I'm not keen on chatting but this little gadget may change my mind. What's so interesting is that your visitors can chat live with you or other users through a Google Map. It's a wonderful way for your visitors to interact and engage each other while in front of your brand.

Package Tracking:  Track FedEx Shipments  -  Track Your UPS Packages
This is a gadget type that should be seriously considered for eCommerce enabled websites. Package tracking is a wonderful feature and gives users confidence that you're not off somewhere spending their money without having sent their recent purchase. Google Gadgets features two nice package trackers from FedEx and UPS.




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