Let me start with the bottom line: You should make a widget for your site. It should:
- be very lightweight in terms of images and text content.
- have the most useful and original aspects of your site included.
- create incentive to click over to the full site
- follow one of the most-common (netvibes, iGoogle) form factors
- be standards-compliant XHTML
What!? XHTML? The common view of widgets and gadgets are the XML + AJAX + web 2.0 whatevers that you find all over the place. I know Google supports URL-specific gadgets — not to mention that the code you copy and paste into the XML is HTML for the formatting anyway.
It should be XHTML because the gadget can then easily double as a site for mobile users — a growing segment of the online population. Pish-posh to iPhone Safari and Opera 4 Mobile — The screens are still small — so the content should be as well.
Outside users can embed it in an iframe, and the basic structure can be ported into almost any site that uses gadgets natively. This opens up the possibilities to a much wider range of web publishers — including novice users.
The thing that appeals to me the most about widgets is that they consolidate content even more than websites have in the past. A well-made widget puts the best dynamic content from a given site in a format that can be splattered all over the internet like leaflets.
Oh, and geniuses — why hasn’t anyone put AdSense in the minimessages library of GooGads yet?