Today I had lunch with our team at work and talked through widget technologies. I'm not a fan of widgets to be honest. I believe they often break up the continuity of the graphics of a blog, clutter some of the blogs, and are often built to bring attention to themselves and not the website.
Whether you're adding widgets or gadgets to your blog, your website, your iGoogle page or even your desktop… widgets are supposed to make it easier to integrate without the need for programming. Simply paste the code or download the widget and away you go.
My favorite source for checking out Widgets is Mashable, but I don't find myself installing them very often. I'm always searching for a benefit to my readers – and I typically can't find one. Perhaps I would install widgets if there were a search engine benefit, but the majority of widgets load client-side and the data gathered is never seen by the search engine bot.
The other problem with widgets is that one piece doesn't fit all. The ideal widget from the creator's viewpoint isn't necessarily the ideal widget from a user's standpoint. I see this over and over… I simply can't style a widget to match the usability and design of my website. Clearspring has a huge following as a leader in widgetry… providing some exceptional analytics and tracking on widgets.
I'm not sure I've ever recognized a business value, though! I tend to gravitate towards integration through APIs since I can match the look and feel of my site, add some additional functionality, and perhaps take advantage of some search engine goodness.
For a Software as a Service blogging platform as Compendium, there are advantages to widgets, though. Since widgets load and run at the client and not at the server, you're not putting the overall system at risk if someone integrates a bunch of crap. As well, the SEO disadvantages actually turn into advantages for an application that is so robust from a Search Engine Optimization standpoint. Widgets won't dilute your search engine goodness.
If our clients wish to clutter their page, they're probably going to hurt their conversion rates (people clicking through to a call to action that drives business), so we warn against them. We're dependent upon our clients' success so we push hard to get them to conform to online marketing best practices.
Do you use widgets? I'd love to hear what kind of business results you're getting.