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Best Practice Exchange: Awesome Widgets

The first post in our new Best Practice Exchange series threw down some ground rules for event web design, courtesy of our resident design expert, Angie Golio. Today, it’s programming and development extraordinaire, Kevin Zink’s turn to fill us in on some of the behind-the-scenes magic we use to create show-stopping sites for events, venues and associations.

So, let’s talk about some awesome widgets, shall we?

Cool Factor

No matter what kind of client we’re working with, at the end of the day they all just want to end up with a really good-looking, hard-working site. Certainly, there’s a lot that goes in to making that happen but one of the best ways to achieve something impressive is through the calculated use of widgets. I say “calculated” because (like everything else) too much of a good thing can be bad news when it comes to widgets. It’s very easy to get carried away and end up distracting from messaging.

However, when deployed with a little strategy and restraint, a well-placed widget can make the difference between an event website that users remember and one that barely registers. And without dropping a bomb on your clients’ budgets to boot.

Dynamic Graphs

Data is important, of that there is no doubt. It can also be boring. Here are my top picks for livening things up when it comes to displaying data dynamically:

Dynamic Grids

You’ve got a whole bunch of content you want users to see. What can you do to increase those odds? Fancy up the display, that’s what! This kind of widget adjusts the elements on the page dynamically according to the optimal placement for the user's device. More advanced setups allow the user to have a little say with the ability to control the display via filters. This works particularly well for something like a listing of sponsors.

Parallax

Parallax design offers the ability to shift elements on a site at different speeds. You’ve most likely seen it on the web somewhere (and thought it was rad), but here’s a fun example from The Walking Dead. And that’s pretty much the bottom line with parallax: It’s fun and it’s rad.

Transitions

This is the kind of stuff people usually refer to as the “bells and whistles.” We’re talking about the ability to change the shape, size and placement of an asset based on a user interaction, like hover or click. This one is the easiest to overdo but probably also the easiest road to creating something unexpected and impressive. I should note though it’s best to deploy this on a “click” rather than a hover or mouseover for mobile compatibility purposes (though there are ways to get around that too).

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