What Are Website Widgets and Why Do You Need Them?

Posted on February 7, 2024 | Updated on February 7, 2024

Many features and design considerations go into creating an effective website. Widgets are a great example of a seemingly small component that makes a big difference in a site’s design.

Lots of businesses use them for different reasons. It could be to communicate with customers or grow a presence online. When you add a widget to your website, you can make processes seamless and achieve business goals.

What are widgets and how do they work? Once you understand what widgets are, you’ll know how they can benefit your business through the various types made for websites. 

What Are Widgets on a Website?

Widgets are small and often interactive elements that stand apart from the main content on a page. Many function as individual applications, performing a specific action like showing real-time information or providing a fillable form.

A widget is a website component that users can engage with — it can enhance the experience and functionality. Widgets are like mini-apps embedded within a webpage. Unlike the main content, widgets serve different purposes.

They can display the weather, social media feeds, a calendar or even a shopping cart. Subscription forms, suggestions of related content and event countdowns are all examples of widgets. They’re a standard part of many websites today, partly because platforms like WordPress offer many free widgets requiring no coding to implement. 

Widgets work independently within a website, often pulling data from other sources. They allow users to interact with a single element without affecting the rest of the page. The code snippets are highly versatile, enabling online businesses to create websites convenient for visitors. 

For example, a news website might have a stock market ticker for users to stay updated in real-time. Meanwhile, a blog could have a widget for recent posts or comments to nudge site visitors to stay longer. When site owners integrate these features into their websites, widgets enrich their functionality while engaging visitors more effectively. 

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ve likely seen and used them before. You may even already have some on your website. Because they’re so common, they’re highly accessible, so they must do more to stand out. It’s not enough to have widgets. You must optimize them to get more out of these features.

Why Do You Need Widgets?

While widgets are great for increasing engagement and functionality, they provide much more than that. Using widgets on websites makes them more interactive and personalized for site visitors. Site visitors gain a more engaging experience, keeping users on your site longer. Thus, longer visit durations and more frequent returns improve search engine rankings and drive traffic.

Furthermore, widgets streamline specific business functions. For instance, e-commerce sites benefit from shopping carts and recommendation widgets. These make purchasing processes and upselling easier. On the other hand, informational sites might use social media feeds or newsletter sign-up widgets to expand their audience reach and build communities.

Additionally, they can make your website look better while supporting your business’s objectives. Whether by boosting sales or enhancing the experience, widgets play a vital role in a website’s success.

Types of Widgets to Add to Your Website

There are widgets of all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most popular types businesses use for various reasons.

1. Chat

A chat widget is a small pop-up that allows real-time communication between website visitors and business owners. It’s an excellent tool for providing instant customer support and answering queries. As a business owner, it’s a valuable asset in improving customer service and boosting sales since it addresses customer concerns promptly.

2. Share Buttons

Share button widgets are essential for boosting a website’s reach. If a site visitor lands on your website and likes your content, they can share it across social media platforms. Social mentions increases your brand’s visibility and site engagement. In turn, it drives traffic and strengthens that connection with your audience. 

3. Newsletter Sign-Up Forms

Sign-up forms are widgets that allow site visitors to subscribe to a website’s email list. Typically, you’d find these forms placed prominently somewhere on a webpage. They’re essential for businesses looking to build their subscriber base and maintain direct contact with their audience. 

By encouraging visitors to subscribe, businesses can cultivate a loyal following and drive engagement and sales. These widgets are digital marketing tools since they collect customer data and help build long-term relationships.

4. Booking

Booking widgets allow site visitors to schedule appointments or reserve services. This widget is handy for businesses like hotels, salons, freelancers and any other service providers.

Widgets are excellent because they make it easy for customers to see availability and secure their spot. This booking method allows them to skip contacting the business through phone calls or emails. As such, their satisfaction increases. 

However, these widgets benefit businesses by automating and organizing their scheduling. It also reduces no-shows through reminders and enhances overall customer service efficiency. By simplifying the booking experience, these widgets make more customers happy and businesses productive.

5. Social Media

Social media widgets are another popular and effective way to use these elements. There are more than 300 million active social media users in the U.S. alone, so businesses must capitalize on these platforms. However, building a large social media audience can be challenging. Widgets make it easier.

Businesses can place links to their primary social media pages on widgets to drive site visitors to these channels. Alternatively, social media widgets could focus on a single platform. 

For example, if your audience is most active on Instagram, you could preview your Instagram on one of these elements. The widget could show your most recent pictures or stories, catching users’ eyes and making a stronger case for them to follow you on the platform.

6. Payment

Payment widgets provide an easy way for customers to make purchases. These are essential for e-commerce sites, enabling customers to pay for products securely. It’s a great way to streamline the payment process and increase conversion rates. They support various payment methods and protect sensitive financial information. This functionality is key in building customer trust and driving sales for online businesses. 

7. Website Banner or Bar

A website banner or bar widget lets you add these to the top or bottom of your webpage. It serves various purposes, such as displaying important announcements or highlighting promotions. This widget is highly visible, effectively capturing user attention without disrupting their browsing experience. It’s an efficient way for businesses to communicate crucial messages or promote special offers.

8. Promos

Promotional widgets are among the most recognizable. These display promotional materials, like highlighting an ongoing sale or a real-time event countdown.

Widgets naturally stand out from the rest of a page’s content, so they’re a great way to draw users’ eyes to special promotions. Businesses can use them to entice visitors to return for a sale, explore discounted products or look through new arrivals. These elements are also an excellent place to build excitement for upcoming events or product releases.

Businesses can also use promo widgets to deliver coupon codes that users can’t get anywhere else. Online sales with digital coupons see 125% more clicks daily than those without, so this use case deserves special attention.

9. Reviews

Widgets are also excellent for building trust and demonstrating a business’s quality. Reviews describing a positive experience make 69% of customers today feel positive about using a business. That’s an edge companies should take advantage of, so highlighting reviews is essential.

Because widgets naturally draw the eye, they’re the ideal place to show positive or recent reviews. Some sites go further and include a form for users to write reviews right there on the page. Streamlining this experience may make customers more likely to engage in it.

10. Company Information

Some widgets are less interactive but still practical. Many businesses use them to display basic information about the company users may want to know. This use case is particularly valuable for organizations with a brick-and-mortar location.

Informational widgets can display store addresses, operating hours and contact information to make in-person visits easier. Some businesses may opt to include fields for users to write and send direct messages to customer service for responses to quick questions. Whatever the specifics, these tools are less glamorous but make sites more convenient.

11. Contact Forms

All kinds of widgets can engage users, but some take a more direct approach to generating leads. Contact form pop-ups or sidebar widgets are an easy and upfront way to gather information about a website’s visitors.

These elements offer fields for users to type in their names, email addresses or other contact information. Some are simpler, providing little more than a button that subscribes users to an email newsletter or takes them to another, longer contact form.

Often, these forms accompany another feature to encourage interaction. They may offer exclusive deals or unlock gated content in return for signing up for the business’s newsletter.

How To Add a Widget to Your Website

Adding a widget to a website typically involves a few straightforward steps. However, the exact process varies depending on the website platform and the specific widget. Here’s a general guide:

  • Choose the right widget: First, identify the widget that best suits your website’s needs.
  • Obtain the widget code: Once you’ve selected a widget, you’ll often get a snippet of code. This is usually JavaScript or HTML that you must insert into your website.
  • Access your website’s backend: Log into your website’s content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Wix. These platforms are usually easy to add custom code.
  • Insert the code: Navigate to the section where you can add custom HTML or JavaScript. This might be in the website’s header, footer or a specific page where you want the widget to appear.
  • Customize and test: Customize the widget’s settings if necessary after inserting the code. Then, test the widget to ensure it works and appears as it should.
  • Publish or Update Your Website: Save your changes and update or publish your site so the widget becomes live.

Take note that if you’re uncomfortable with coding, many website builders offer a selection of widgets that you can add with just a few clicks.

Use Widgets to Improve Your Website

Now that you know what widgets are and their primary types, you can understand how to use them effectively. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Gather as Much Information as Possible

Regardless of what kinds of widgets you use, they should collect information from users. These elements are great places to drive engagement, and you can use that interaction to learn more about your audience.

Email offers the highest ROI of any marketing strategy, so email addresses are an obvious target. Consider building widgets offering coupons or other incentives if users enter their emails. Question-and-answer forms are another easy way to gain user’s email addresses.

Other information to collect includes names, ages and locations. However, it’s important to balance this data collection with user trust. Include a link at the bottom taking users to a page explaining why you collect some information and how you protect it. Not every widget needs an in-depth contact form, either, as too many requests for information may make visitors feel concerned for their privacy.

Tailor Widgets to Specific Users

Some widgets — like those offering company information — should remain the same for all users. But in other cases, it’s best to tailor them to different audiences. Personalization drives sales and increases brand loyalty, and widgets are a great place to exhibit it.

Promotional elements should show promotions relevant to different users’ interests. Similarly, those offering special deals or coupons should match the kinds of products or services the specific user will find most interesting. Gathering customer data from other elements and cookies will make this practice possible.

Use Pop-Ups Carefully

While many widgets appear on the side of the screen or separate content on a page, others appear as pop-ups. These can be useful tools, but only if businesses use them in moderation.

Pop-ups are great for specialized offers, like suggesting a sale on related products after someone adds something else to their cart. However, if they appear too often, they’ll quickly become irritating, driving users away from your site. Only allow one pop-up per checkout experience and limit them elsewhere for maximum effectiveness.

Ensure All Elements Work Well

Finally, because these elements add complexity to a website, businesses must ensure their sites still perform well. Slow-loading pages drive half of e-commerce customers to abandon their carts, and even if users don’t leave, they’ll get a negative impression of the company.

Web designers should benchmark performance before and after implementing widgets to ensure they don’t delay load times. Using web hosting services’ ready-made widget plug-ins instead of building them from the ground up may make it easier to ensure consistent performance.

The widgets themselves should also function properly. If they’re supposed to remain at the top of the page as users scroll, they shouldn’t lag or jitter. Pop-ups should load immediately and close as soon as users exit out of them. Once again, frequent testing is necessary.

Capitalize on the Power of Widgets

Widgets are powerful tools that improve your website and user engagement. From chat support to social media integration, each widget has a unique purpose. Consider using these tools to help you achieve better user experience and productivity. As you add them to your site, watch as widgets open new doors for your online presence and business growth.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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