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EPA Widget Guidance

Page history last edited by jeffrey levy 12 years ago

Want to edit and use for your own organization?  Please delete all EPA-specific information.


Other EPA social media guidance


Note: EPA’s official use of widgets is still evolving. We’re collectively learning from the variety of approaches to issues that our various widgets address. This guidance will be issued as a standard in the Fall 2010.  Your comments and suggestions will be used to keep the processes and best practices current and up-to-date. The Office of Public Affairs (OPA) and the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) will discuss potential changes with the EPA Twitter community before issuing changes.


Note: Remember that your official activities on-line are subject to the ethics regulations as well as other federal and agency laws, policies and regulations.  In addition, existing policies and guidance for accessibility, privacy, external site links, cookies and writing style apply to social media tools as well.  References to these are included at the end of this document.


Background: What is a Widget?

A widget is a piece of Web code which can be added to somebody else’s Web page. The code will appear on the other Web page, but you still manage and maintain the content of your widget. It permits you to provide useful information in a “shareable” format.



  Your content coordinator should contact Kay Morrison in OPA’s Office of Web Communications (OWC) for approval of your widget.


Why use widgets?

Your widget is content that you produce that shows up on somebody else’s Web page; thus, widgets can reach a broader audience than EPA’s webpage, www.epa.gov.


This piece of code can be used to provide information in many ways, for example:


  • access to geographic data, as in the case of the MyEnvironment and Find Your Watershed widgets
  • a series of tips which change daily as the Environmental Tip of the Day
  • a space for an RSS feed such as the Greenversations Question of the Week
  • an informational widget providing a link to additional information, such as the WaterSense widgets
  • and many other ways to provide small chunks of information for others to embed on their web pages


See http://www.epa.gov/widgets/ for examples of EPA widgets.


Things to consider before creating a widget  

  • Widgets provide content or functionality that others can add to their own, non-EPA Web pages, for themselves and also for their users. In other words, the users of a widget aren’t necessarily the same people who would add it to a Web page. For example, a library might add an EPA search widget to its site, but it’s actually library patrons who will use it.
  • The widget should offer information that changes (for example a daily tip) or a function (such as a ZIP code lookup). Don’t create a widget with only a fixed image or static content… this is merely a text box and a does not need to be delivered through a widget process. Don’t create a widget about your office or organization.
  • Even though widgets are on the Web, they are not Web pages and do not stand alone. A widget usually cannot be taken down without disrupting users who have added it to their Web page.
  • To be sure widgets are worth continuing, plan ahead how you will monitor widget usage and keep track of changes over time.



All widget concepts should be reviewed and approved by OWC BEFORE you begin developing the widget.


Get approval from:


  1. Your manager; and
  2. Your content coordinator (see http://www.epa.gov/webgovernance/leadership.html to find your content coordinator); and
  3. OWC (your content coordinator will get this for you).


Steps for EPA Widgets

Please read this entire document BEFORE you begin. This document describes the general process and standards for developing EPA “widgets.” The process approximates a generalized widget life-cycle:


  • Concept and Planning
  • Development and Deployment
  • Metrics
  • Termination


Concept and Planning

Answer these questions before contacting your Content Coordinator:


Purpose and function


  • What will the widget do?
  • What is your goal for this widget?
  • How does it support your program’s mission?




  • Who do you intend will add your widget to their Web page?
  • Who do you intend will use the widget?
  • When and how you will “announce” the widget availability?




  • How will you update the widget content or function?
  • How often will you update the widget content or function?
  • How will the widget be accessible, e.g., Section 508?
  • What are any possible security issues?
  • What are any possible conflicts with existing federal or EPA policies?
  • What will the widget look like and how big will it be?




  • Do you and your management understand and support a widget as a virtually forever commitment?
  • How will you measure widget use or “success”?
  • If the widget has a finite life cycle, how long is that?


Development and Deployment

First get approval from your management, Content Coordinator, and OWC for the widget concept before you begin to develop a widget. Follow the standards listed below. If you wish to deviate from a standard, please bring the reasons why to your Content Coordinator and get approval from OWC before you proceed.


See http://www.epa.gov/widgets/ for examples of EPA widgets. Note: effective February 19, 2010, all new widgets should comply with the guidelines below  (see “Important” below).


In general, a widget should include the following:


  • a name - this can simply state the content or function
  • variable content or a function for users
  • if needed, minimal instructions how to use the widget
  • a prominent link to the program Web site about the content or function
  • a small “i” link to the widget’s own home page
  • a small EPA logo link to the EPA home page


Keep in mind:


  • There is no one EPA appearance or color scheme, other than the standards described in this document. Work with OPA to develop your look.
  • Design the widget so no instructions are needed, or absolutely minimal instructions. For example: “Enter ZIP” is better than “Please enter your home or business ZIP Code here:” In most cases, no instructions should be needed.
  • Important: Provide a clear link to the EPA program page related to the widget’s information or function. One such link can be “Learn more.”
  • Important: Create a 1-pixel contrasting line around the widget body, so the widget can appear distinct even if the user’s page is the identical color. Embed a line in the graphic, or use an iFrame border of 1.
  • Important: Put the rectangular EPA logo (not the round seal) in the bottom left corner of the widget. Link it to http://www.epa.gov. Keep the logo unobtrusive by making its color a little lighter or darker than the main widget background. (Avoid vivid, distracting contrasts or colors such as hot pink).  
  • Important: Create a page on epa.gov about the widget itself. This is where you post the widget, any variations such as different sizes, instructions or links how to get or add the widget to a Web page, and similar related information. Create the widget’s own home page using an obvious, guessable URL, for example, epa.gov/programname/widgets
  • Important: Link to your widget page from an italic lowercase letter “i” (for “information”), at the bottom right of the widget. The “i” is about 7px wide by 10px high.  
  • Different sizes of the same widget should use a similar design, but scaled appropriately. They may be of different colors.



Track whatever usage statistics you have access to so that you can measure and determine how your widget is being used. At EPA we don’t track the Web activities of individual users, so we can’t assess exact usage per person.


Keeping track of your widget activity lets you determine how much the widget is being used so you can:


  • report the widget’s usefulness over time
  • assess the effectiveness of marketing the widget
  • show your managers their investment in the widget is justified
  • know when you reach saturation (if activity levels off)
  • know when the widget stops being useful (if activity falls)


For widgets distributed using EPA HTML pages and iFrame, the Agency’s basic Web statistics pages can provide useful if limited metrics. These are found on pages with a URL format of



(insert your own TSSMS account name, month, and year). Note that the TSSMS name is lowercase, while the month name is capitalized. For example, http://www.epa.gov/reports/objects/adminweb/adminweb-July_2009.html


Beginning in 2010, all EPA widgets will be produced using widgetbox.com, which will deliver better usage statistics and make widgets easier to share. OPA will update this guidance when the new system is available.



Taking a widget down will leave a hole on Web pages where it was installed. Therefore, most widgets have an indefinite life. However, a widget could have a short lifespan for two reasons:


  • you planned for a short lifespan
  • unforeseen circumstances require to take it down


For a pre-planned short-term widget: On the widget’s page, be clear that it will be live only from X date to Y date, after which it will go offline. While it is possible this might discourage casual users from adding the widget, remember, you will have a good reason for a short-term widget and your target users will understand your reasons.


For unforeseen circumstances: if you can, replace the widget content with a simple, clear announcement that the widget is offline or discontinued, giving the reason. Include a link to a page with relevant information. State that we regret the inconvenience.


Unless you intentionally planned and got approval from OWC to post a short-term widget, please do not take down a widget. If you must take it down please notify your content coordinator and OWC.






EPA Policy:






Additional resources:


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