Static web pages are a thing of the past. Now you can spice up your site with all sorts of handy widgets to capture your customers' interest and help you stand out from the crowd.
Think of widgets as bite-size web applications that can be placed in websites, whether it's your business's homepage, blog or web community profile. Online store widgets are a clever way to extend your e-tailing reach beyond your main website. Widgets can also be a quick way to add social networking features to your online business.
Here's a roundup of some handy web widgets to get your internet business started on the right foot:
Shopit: Put popular social networks and online communities to work with this social commerce widget. You get a free online "portable store" that can be embedded as a widget in blogs and sites like Facebook and MySpace. Yahoo! and eBay Store users can easily import their entire catalogs.
Cartfly: Cartfly is similar to Shopit. You can customize your portable store to fit your business's look and style. Accounts are free to set up but include a 3 percent transaction fee. The emphasis is on a simple interface with a fast setup that will help you get your store out and about on the web in no time.
FormLogix: When you are bootstrapping a web startup, you can't always afford a custom web designer or programmer to help build your site out. Fortunately, FormLogix makes it easy to add anything--such as a contact form, order form or testimonial form--to your site. Their pre-made widgets are the fastest way to get started.
Cooqy: eBay entrepreneurs also get an invitation to the widget party. Keep an eye on eBay to soon offer a way to showcase your items using widgets, but in the meantime, check with Cooqy to create customizable widgets you can embed in your website, blog or social networking page. The widgets are free for non-eBay web pages. Using the widgets on eBay pages such as item listings is free if you have fewer than 500 active listings; it's $4.95 per month if you have more than that.
Looking for a specific widget? Go to widget directories Google Gadgets or Widgetbox for searchable directories. You just might find the currency converter, calendar or search function you've been looking for--already in widget form and ready for your site.
Communicating online with your customers and site visitors doesn't have to be impersonal. Instant chat is a quick way to let website visitors reach you or your staff to handle support issues or answer questions. Free ad-supported instant chat service Gabbly can also act as a forum where your site visitors interact with each other.
It can be slightly customized for size and is a copy-and-paste step away from embedding in your site. It's an interesting example of how easy it can be to add chat and a dash of social networking to your website or business blog. Also look into chat service Karzi.com, currently in beta.
This story, "Widgets That Wow" was originally published by Entrepreneur.com.