Google Gadgets are not the most famous Google offering and when you see one you may not realize what it is.  However, Google Gadgets can be useful additions to a website. They can also be added to your Google Homepage or Google Desktop with a couple clicks.

What are Google Gadgets?

From a webmaster prospective, according to Google, "Gadgets are miniature web objects that you can copy & paste into your own webpage, for free. You can improve your site with gadgets that tell your visitors the weather in your city, countdown to your grand opening, or even local gas prices, just to name a few."

Most of these little objects are designed by web users or companies, not by Google itself.  Google only hosts the code and makes them available for use.

From a developer perspective, Google encourages webmasters and web developers to create and promote gadgets. Big G provides guides and tools to allow you to create your own gadget - either general interest for sharing with others for free or very site specific to feed information off a specific website.  They host a categorized and searchable directory of these little tools and allow them to be placed in iGoogle easily.

Why are Existing Free Google Gadgets Useful to a Website Owner?

Every successful website owner should be looking to add enhanced functionality and useful content to their site, and gadgets are a free and easy way to do just that. Useful or entertaining content keeps visitors on the site longer and brings visitors back too.  

For every website there is likely already several targeted Gadgets available for free use. For example, if your site is about travel there are many useful travel oriented Gadgets such as:

Travel Search Engine - Flights, Hotel Reservations, Car Rentals and Cruises by fly3.net

Flights, Discount Hotel Reservations, Car Rentals and Cruises - This meta search engine can find all kinds of travel products, not just the best airfares and accommodation, but also rental cars and cruises, comparing all known super travel sites at once. You are just one click away from getting the best fare for your vacation. Try it out for free, there's no hidden agenda or biased displays, you will get the best price available. (description provided by the Gadget author)

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Some Gadgets serve photos - from sharks to zoo animals and from sunsets to festivals and everything else you can imagine. This one shows photos of islands and would be a cool addition to a world travel oriented site.

Top Daily Awe-Inspiring Photos Of Islands by M i D o t s

View the most popular Awe-Inspiring Photos Of Islands images of the day. The MiDots Image Viewer will server up a new photo each time you visit the site. Or you can use the easy navigation buttons to move forward and backwards between your favorite images. Or simply press the play button to view a running slide show. These photos are hand picked high quality images. Each new images is a new Amazing Adventure. If you love Awe-Inspiring Photos Of Islands, you will love this gadget. Enjoy!  (description from the Gadget author)

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Preview before addingThere are over 500 different currency related Gadgets, including generic currency converters and more specific currency converters, like one that starts with the South African Rand. If you had a South African travel agency, the Rand converter would be a very useful addition to your webpage.

There are Gadgets that serve news headlines, jokes, quotes, and sports trivia.

Gadgets as Tools

Over 10,000 of these little Gadgets are categorized as tools.  Currency conversion (mentioned above is an obvious tool, but there are also solutions for converting time, between imperial and metric, getting driving directions, weather, and many more.   There are even internet speed tests and Gadgets that find the location of   

Preview before addingI've used the GRE English Word of the Day Gadget on my Vancouver ESL site because it serves up interesting challenging words, definitions and even pronounces the word for you. This is a tool that English Language students will appreciate and might even come back to check later because it updates every day and helps them learn new English words.

Game Gadgets

If you want to provide mindless entertainment, there are thousands of game oriented Google Gadgets for every interest. 

Ease of Installation

Once you have a Gadget selected, you just click "Add to Your Webpage" and you are then offered an opportunity to resize the Google Gadget and add a border before copying a bit of code.  

You can then just open the backend of your website and drop in the code. Save and the Gadget goes live. It is easy to adjust the size of the Gadget so it both looks 'right' and fits into the allotted space correctly.  You can either use the Google tool to resize the Gadget and get new code or manually change the numbers after "w=" and "h=" (w=320&h=200 for example) to match the number of pixels high and wide you want to display your new addition as.  

Downside to Gadgets

There are a few possible negatives to using third-party Google Gadgets including:

  • Some of them include Google Adsense - and the Adsense code will be the designers, not yours
  • You can't include the Google Gadgets on sites that constitute a bad neighborhood in Google's opinion - specifically "You may not display the gadget on a site containing content that is pornographic; that promotes or incites hatred or violence; that invades personal rights including rights of privacy; that violates any law including intellectual property laws; or that interferes with the functioning of other webpages."  You must also agree to all the terms and conditions of use (very reasonable terms in my view).
  • Gadgets may link back to the developer's site directly from the front of the display or from deeper in the Gadget.
  • Since these items are supported by third parties you may find they stop working properly and you'll have no recourse except to remove the code.  You get what you pay for and these are free.
  • Too many Gadgets will look cluttered, especially if your website already has a lot of content and ads on it.