Best Design Practices for Displaying an RSS feed on Your Site
I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be good advice for most nonprofits. My personal experience, even at this late-2007 juncture, is that despite all of our enthusiasm for RSS and the slice-and-dice wonders it enables, we web folk haven’t been able to make the concept mainstream — yet. RSS feeds are everywhere, but how many people are actually using a serious aggregator? Mainstream users generally remain uninterested in figuring out how the come-to-me web works. So a simple feed icon — while clearly a much more elegant solution for a site whose constituents are on the geeky side — will largely be wasted on a mainstream user base.
Which isn’t to say that mainstream users won’t be wowed by the come-to-me web if exposed to it in the right way. Don’t ask them to figure out why they should care about RSS; instead, serve it up in familiar contexts — put a few well-chosen “add to” chiclets in your sidebar:
- + iGoogle
- + MyYahoo
- + Windows Live
- + Bloglines
The first three are likely to be familiar to everyone; the last is the only stand-alone aggregator that strikes me as having gained significant purchase on mainstream users.
“What about using the universal icon + FeedBurner, or the AddThis widget — the chiclets would appear only when a user drills down on RSS and thus wouldn’t clutter my sidebar?” Ah, but in this instance, the presence on your site’s surface level of those specific callouts for familiar web brands is functional. Cluttered, but functional.
I’m about to compound my offense to current design conventions — I think it’s also important to offer feeds via an RSS-to-email service like that provided by FeedBurner, so that readers can get your feed through the ol’ email subscription model. On the sites I work on, I’m betting this significantly increases the total number of RSS subscribers to your feed.
Enough for now. If anyone out there thinks I’m wrong on this, please leave a comment.