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Introducing The "Widget" Architecture

Today's web sites have active content that uses technologies such as Javascript and PHP. Embedding active content on a web page is part of our new "widget" architecture. It allows scripts to be placed anywhere on the page by using the familiar "box" model.

Widgets allow a script to be packaged in a way that can easily be incorporated into a web site by novice users. The script is "wrapped" such that it has an interactive properties dialog where the user can configure the widget with a user interface of the author's choosing. When added to the web-page a template is used to configure the script based on the properties set by the user. Most new functionality in Site Builder will be packaged in this way. We will eventually open this up to third parties to allow for the packaging of scripts that can be fully integrated into Site Builder.

To date we have implemented the following widgets for use with Instant Zen:

  • A Photo Navigation and Slide Show - This navigates the viewer through the photo album and pops up a slide show. By pre-loading pictures the slide show works well even at lower bandwidths.
  • Google AdSense - This widget allows code from the Google AdSense program to be used for the creation of advertising. The widget accepts pasted code and interprets the parameters to automatically size the AdSense box on the page.
  • sIFR Fonts - This feature is implemented entirely as a widget. It is a great example of the power of the properties dialog where fonts and font properties can be set.

We have also implemented fundamental building blocks for users who have programming skills and wish to create their own active content. These widgets are only available in Site Builder Pro:

  • iFrame - Allows content from other sites to be embedded directly onto a web page.
  • Javascript - Allows Javascript and/or HTML to be entered and tested. It is very useful for embedding pre-configured scripts such as the Google Map API or banner advertising scripts. The widget reports Javascript errors so the code can be tested before placing it on a web page.
  • PHP - We have chosen PHP as the language for active server content because it is the most widely supported in the web hosting industry and contains the security features that most hosting companies demand. Scripts can be debugged using the widget interface before inserting on a page.


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