Even the best blog authors need a little help to spice up their sidebar. While some argue that a plain, white-space inspired sidebar is best, I’ve become used to the little gardens of chicklets that most bloggers cultivate next to their posts.
Here are some of the best ones I’ve run into on the web.
When it comes right down to it, this may be one of the most important metrics on your blog. While some people say Google Page Rank isn’t as important as it used to be, it still determines how high up Google will generally display your site when it is competing with others on a particular search term. Once your Page Rank grows above level 2 or so (remember each level is logarithmically harder to get to than the last), it isn’t a bad idea to show it off. This is especially useful if your readers don’t have the Google toolbar installed.
Don’t worry, this is the last “true” chicklet on the list. It’s a very worthy addition though, because it tracks not the number of visits to your site, but instead, the actual number of users on your site at any given time. For instance, if you had a surge of users and had 50 viewing your site simultaneously and then it went back down to 10 users, Who’s.amung.us would give you both the minimum and maximum numbers for the day.
On top of this, it’s not account based, so anyone can view your stats and you can look up the stats of other participating sites. A really original way of thinking about site traffic!
It’s a clear summary of your Twitter information and along with your latest update, it includes several of the people you are following as well. There are several configuration options and you can test it out on a dark or light background before copying the code.
While Retaggr has a great number of uses, one of their neatest features is a collapsable profile card. When it renders on your page, it will look like a small chicklet that fits in with any others you might have. Upon clicking it, though, it inflates into a complete profile of all your Retaggr information. It even has a little “loading” circle to indicate what’s going on to users. Of course you need to be a Retaggr user already or create a free account, but it’s well worth it for all the different widgets they have available.
My only complaint is that many users might not know to click the widget or what it is at all. You might frame it with a little explanatory text if you are worried about this.
Wakoopa is an interesting little site that we talked about a few weeks ago. I shouldn’t really say little, as it’s a huge database of software and, recently, web apps. If you have a free Wakoopa account, you can get several different widgets that utilize data collected about what software you use most frequently. As a power-user you might very well define yourself by the software you use every single day. This top list probably says more about you than you think.
The widget is relatively attractive and functionally narrow. There aren’t a lot of customization options right now, but I think the information it provides is valuable enough to make up for this.
6. The Classic Blogroll
The last entry on our list isn’t really a widget at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Since time immemorium, blogs have had lists of links to other sites on them called “blogrolls.” I have noticed a marked decrease in the number of blogs using these recently and would like to emphasize how they can be useful to both bloggers and the community at large.
First of all, a blogroll can say a lot about how YOU view the rest of the internet. You can pad the top with a few sites you visit almost every day, then list a few blogs whose owners you are familiar with. Be careful not to overpopulate your blogroll with too many sites though. Otherwise, you might hurt your Page Rank by linking to lesser websites. If you have almost no Page Rank it doesn’t matter so much, but you won’t want anything holding you back in the future.
If you have a good relationship with another blogger, encourage them to swap links with you, that way readers of both your blogs can be shared between you.
That’s all for now. There are a MILLION widgets, chicklets, embeds, and other discrete objects you can place on your blog. Be considerate of your users when doing this and try to limit yourself to about two lengths of a standard monitor. Beyond this not only will your widgets get no visibility, but you’re just increasing your load time.
Be sure to share your favorite widgets in the comments and let us know how you use your sidebar.