What I Discovered About Making Great Widgets: Insights From 100+ Real Users

I researched how to create great home screen widgets by gathering insights from over 100 widget users. This article shares the key principles and findings from that study. Even though developers and businesses often overlook home screen widgets, they can really engage users.

What I Discovered About Making Great Widgets: Insights From 100+ Real Users

We want to help people read more from their to-read pile with minimal effort using our product, FeedZap. To see if a mobile home screen widget could assist in this, I conducted a small research study on effective home screen widgets for Android and iPhones.

The main goal of my discovery is to answer these questions:

  1. What purposes do home screen widgets serve?
  2. Are Android or iOS users using widgets effectively?
  3. What factors or principles should be considered when building widgets?
  4. Who are the top widget makers in the market, and how did they become successful?

For this study, I selected Reddit and Hacker News, platforms where many tech enthusiasts gather. I posted my inquiry in major Android and iPhone subreddits and waited for responses.

The response was amazing. Across all posts, we received around 105k views and over 180+ responses. I found many widget users and discovered a wide variety of widgets from the replies.


Since the list was extensive, I selected a few popular widgets and specific situations where widgets are used.
I also considered some surveys conducted by other platforms regarding the popularity of widgets.

A poll conducted by Nextpit shows that 65% of their readers are active widget users.

Simplifying Your Daily Routine With Widgets

Android introduced the widget feature in its very first version in 2009, with Android 1.5 being the first to have the named widget feature. In later Android versions, widgets evolved to become resizable and included more features.

iOS added widgets into in September 2020 with iOS 14.

People mostly use widgets related to their day-to-day activities, such as

  1. checking meetings
  2. looking at the weather
  3. marking to-dos
  4. keeping notes

There are many good widgets available for these purposes in the store. Widgets enhance apps by creating a larger space to display relevant information compared to the typical app icon.
Besides these categories, custom widgets are also popular these days.
Custom widgets provide an interface and tools to help users create or modify home screen widgets based on their interests.
We will discuss more about custom widgets in the upcoming section.

I examined the successful widgets suggested by most users in the market, analyzing their features and patterns to understand what makes them effective.

Lessons from Google: Building User-Friendly Widgets

The Google Calendar widget is one of the most recommended calendar widgets by users. You likely have a calendar widget, especially the Google Calendar widget, on your home screen.
What contributes to the simplicity of a widget?

Optimized design patterns are crucial in widget design, and Google has successfully overcome this challenge.

calender (1)

Google Calendar widget only shows the relevant data with minimal clicks, as referred in this image most of the space in the widget allocated for displaying the most relevant information for the user.

Additionally, the support for different widgets, rather than incorporating everything into a single view, enhances usability.
The Google Calendar widget offers two types of views:

  • daily view
  • monthly view

catering to different user needs and preferences.

Do You Want To Showcase Rich Content Without Sacrificing Simplicity?

Most users who participated in the discussion have a weather widget on their home screen. For weather widgets, accuracy is a crucial factor. The Weawow weather widget is a good example of effectively aligning vast information in a small space.

unnamed (1)

By looking at a single widget from Weawow, we can gather the following information:

  1. The time
  2. The date in a proper readable format
  3. The current weather
  4. The current temperature
  5. The weather forecast for upcoming days

On a smaller screen, Weawow manages to provide this much information using relevant icons, minimal text, and effective alignment of the information.

For a widget that doesn’t require much action from the user but needs to show relevant information clearly, Weawow is a good example.
Its design focuses on delivering comprehensive data clearly and concisely, making it highly user-friendly.

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How Does This Widget Manage the Entire Day Without Complicating It?

Apart from information widgets like Weawow, there are other use cases where more user interaction is required.
Categories such as note-taking, task management, and budget planning need users to input information with less effort from the home screen.
A good example of this type of widget is TickTick.
TickTick is primarily a task management widget, but it also supports calendar integration, the Eisenhower matrix, habit tracking, and Pomodoro timer features.


TickTick is designed so that the call-to-action elements have equal weight to displaying relevant information.

In the task management widget, each to-do task is arranged in a way that allows users to perform the following actions on a minimal screen:

  1. Navigate through dates
  2. Check or uncheck tasks
  3. Add a task to a particular date
  4. Open the calendar view

Enhanced Personalization for Better User Experience

Customization is a critical aspect of widget design. Numerous widget users on Reddit highly recommend the KWGT Custom Widget app for its extensive customization options. KWGT enables users to create widgets layer by layer and piece by piece. Additionally, users can distribute their created widgets on the Play Store for other KWGT users to use. Alive KWGT is as an example of custom-created widgets.

kwgt (1)

Since users have varying home screen sizes and different widget needs, allowing customization is essential. It enables users to resize or personalize widgets according to their preferences.

KWGT is a good example of supporting personalization in widgets.

Widget Design Principles You Can't Ignore

The above widgets thats we discussed become successful by overcoming this two challenges:

  1. Design the information in more userfriendly and easily accessible way.
  2. Align the information based on user requirements and device size.

We went through a lot of design and implementation patterns from the popular widgets, I will summarize the widget design principles here:

  1. Purpose-Driven Design: Ensure each widget serves a specific purpose aligned with users
  2. Customization: Provide customization options like those offered by KWGT Custom Widget app, allowing users to personalize widgets to fit their individual needs and screen layouts.
  3. Simplicity and Efficiency: Prioritize simplicity in design to provide relevant information or actions with minimal interaction
  4. Information Alignment and Clarity: Align information effectively within the widget's space, ensure clear presentation.

How To Build Widgets From Scratch?

As mentioned in the Google developer guide:

widget is the information "snack" while the app is the "meal."

The best way to start building a widget is by creating a static widget that shows relevant, important information.
For example, if you have a stock market app, you could display the daily stock market summary.
Both Android and iOS have detailed documentation on building widgets from scratch.

Here is the detailed guideline for building widgets on Android devices.

Similar to Android, iOS also has great documentation and guidelines for adding widgets to iOS devices.

The popular Flutter framework also supports creating widgets for your Flutter apps. Here is detailed information with an example.

The primary step before implementing a widget is designing it. You need to ask these questions before implementing it:

  1. What data needs to be shown? (content)
  2. What can users do from the widget? (call to action)
  3. What size should it be? (preferably compatible with multiple sizes)
  4. How can the user customize the widget?


Widgets are an emerging technology, but many developers are not utilizing the full potential. A well-designed, user-friendly widget can significantly enhance the user experience with your app's services. If you have any suggestions or tips for building great widgets, please let me know in the comments.

Also, I’m attaching the links for the Reddit and Hacker News discussions. These might be helpful for discovering new and unique widget informations:

Feel free to check these out for additional insights and recommendations on widgets!

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