Tip of the Day – Widget personalization is important!

Some people call it skinning, others call it customization, for this post we’re going to call it personalization. Having sat in many focus groups… I’ve learned this following pearl of wisdom.

Adding personalization to your widget is incredibly important.

Social Network users spend HOURS customizing their profile to… express themselves. If your widget doesn’t “gel” with their Dwight Schrute bobble head photo, then it’s not going to work for them.

But… what is personalization?

Take a look at Snapvine’s VoicePlayer skins page.

Snap skins

You’ll notice that the widget here has many different flavors or “skins”.

Your widget doesn’t have to be as complex as the Snapvine widget, and frankly it shouldn’t be. One corner that you can easily back yourself into is by making your skins so customizable, that it makes it difficult to add new features or UI components.

Imagine if you will, a widget that allows users to move any button they want, anywhere they want. Then later on, you want to add 3 new buttons to the interface. You have to go back through all of your skins and make the changes to all of them. If you have over 100 different skins that are unique, you have to change and test all of them. Not fun.

When your go down the path of TOO MUCH customization, the widget quickly becomes far too complex, and a burden to maintain. So use KISS methodology when dealing with personalization.

Here are some easy ways to add personalization:

  • Allow an image path as a flashvar to be used as the background.
  • Point to different external CSS files.
  • Allow for colorization of components.
  • Custom information – Name, tagline, etc…

Tomorrow’s tip I will discuss how to use flashvars for customized widget information.

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