Last year I wrote about the potential of applications – or widgets – on the Facebook platform. At the time Facebook was one of the only social media entities that had an open platform for anyone to build and share applications. Widgets are popular because users can customize their pages to their needs and desires with those widgets. Ecommerce sites can use them to brand themselves, drive traffic to their corporate site, and even generate direct sales from the widget. It used to be that a knowledgeable programmer was the most reliable way to go in creating a widget, but secondary services are making it easier to create applications and widgets without deep programming knowledge.
One such company that is getting very good reviews is Sproutbuilder.com. The company allows users to create “sprouts,” which are multimedia Flash interfaces that can be created without knowing how to program in either Macromedia Flash or HTML. A sprout can be a widget or a full-fledged website, but the technology lends itself more to small applications than website design.
Lots of power, easy to use
What’s great about the Sproutbuilder.com interface is the simple tools. Having a fair understanding of Macromedia Flash (the sprout interface is built on Macromedia’s Flex 3 platform), I can say that the sprout interface offers an incredible amount of power in a very usable package.
These sprout widgets can then be embedded in other websites, including blogs and social media sites, including Facebook. They can be added with a fair amount of automation (depending upon the platform). And, when you update content in your widget, all sprouts (wherever they are) update automatically.
Evan a salesperson can do it
What does this mean for an ecommerce site? Well, if you don’t have an IT department or someone that can dedicate time to creating a widget, it means that even your salesperson has the capacity to put together a functioning widget on Facebook or one of many other social media interfaces. Of course, no matter how a widget is created, an application that goes viral is the ultimate goal. One tool I’ve referenced before is worth mentioning again: Adonomics.com. Facebook continues to be a great testing ground for what does and doesn’t work in widget creation, and Adonomics.com tracks Facebook apps like a stock market. All the most successful apps are listed with many statistics about their growth popularity, including graphs on daily active users, total number of users, ranking, related applications, and links to the apps themselves. It makes for ideal widget research tool.
Creating a widget application no longer has to be a big investment of time and money. While the easier production of widgets is making the use of them more competitive, ecommerce sites would still be remiss not to create at least one. SproutBuilder.com is one of the easiest and least expensive routes to creating widgets, and there are sure to be more online widget production sites on the way. If you give widget development a shot for your company, remember to try to get some enjoyment out of it; the more fun and gratifying it is to you, the more likely it is to gain some traction in Facebook or any other social media site.