Widgets are used as a great method of increasing flexibility of your online store and your control over it. Let us discuss why Magento widgets are needed, what their types are and how to configure them.
What Magento widgets are
Magento widgets are external interface blocks which contain some information necessary to a user or important for a store marketing promotion. Each widget has a certain set of configuration properties which can be edited in the admin panel. An online store owner is able to configure various attributes for specific widgets as well as their location on the store pages.
Starting from Magento Community Edition 1.4 and Enterprise Edition 1.6 versions the system offers much more various options. In some widgets, certain settings can even be modified by users, if you allow that in the admin panel.
Why Magento widgets are needed
Naturally, it is for each store owner to choose whether or not they use Magento widgets. These add-ons provide less additional functionality than a Magento module, but they can play an important role for an advertising campaign, frontend configuration, etc.
What we need Magento widgets for:
1. They can be used to transfer any dynamic information;
2. Such add-ons are often used in online stores to display pages or products that a user has viewed;
3. If you cooperate with different advertizing companies or simply wish to place a link to an interesting product then widgets are your best assistants;
4. They help to configure alternative animation, such as a tag cloud or sliders, etc.;
5. Such add-ons often contain chats or other tools to help customers make their choice. For instance, is can be a virtual hairdresser or a stylist.
How to create a widget
In order to develop Magento widgets you will need at least some experience in programming and knowledge of the system functionality characteristics. Usually, development of widgets significantly differs from development of extensions, despite their quite similar usage (providing of a convenient interface and desired functionality). But generally, if you need to create an extension that will be easy to configure by an admin, then widget is your best decision.
If you do not have enough programming skills we recommend you to consult with Magento development team.
In order to better understand the configuration or development of separate Magento widgets you should know the following terms:
Frontend Block is a separate element that helps to create a visual output of the content;
Magento widget is a block that can contain specific code, add-on or other site element;
Magento CE 1.4, EE 1.6 and higher include the following widgets by default:
1. CMS Page Link – it displays specific page (with templates configured according to your needs – one or two columns, etc.);
2. CMS Static Block – it displays a specific block;
3. Catalog Category Link – it is a very useful widget, it helps to output the links to partners’ sites, specific categories, products or sales in a certain place on your site;
4. Catalog Product Link – this widget displays a specific product, you can change the header or description;
5. Recently Compared Products – this widget compares products recently viewed by a customer.
We would appreciate if you share your thoughts regarding Magento widgets in comments and name the ones you consider the most useful.