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Oct 26

Competing with your RSS feed

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I remember hunting for the “Print Friendly” links on pages because they didn’t have the crud around the page that gets into the way.

Since RSS became en vogue, there was no need for this approach, since you could suck in the content to your feed reader.

Chris Wilson (IE program manager) talked about this in his keynote at The Ajax Experience, and how he reads a lot of content there just because of this reason.

I now think about a web site UI as competing with the feed reader experience.

If a lot of your users would rather use a simple list of article view of your site, then you haven’t done a good job giving them what they want on your actual site.

The process of competing with your RSS feed normally ends up with the following:

  • You do not put too much on a page to overwhelm it
  • You think about exactly what the user wants
  • You provide greater navigation to help them find what they want

If you are winning the batter against your feed, you don’t have to stop there. You can then go into your feeds and see if any of the lessons could be learned and a few subtle tweaks to the feeds could help out. You should be reluctant to put too much into a feed (you could make the feed look exactly the same as the web page if you wanted of course. don’t) but a few things here and there to help the user is not a bad thing.

RSS Feed. En garde.

23 Responses to “Competing with your RSS feed”

  1. Guillaume Says:

    Why do you need to compete with your feed. People who are interested in the information, and not some *fancy* formatting or layout are going to use the feeds, simply because its an easier way to access the information.

    From a pure UI point of view it means you are not distracted by all the things you have around the content. Time to time you get some text ads or a prety simple banner, but the distraction is still prety minimal. The dedicated UI of a feed reader also let you be more efficient in our navigation.

    The model for accessing information through feeds is also completely different than website: you select what you are interested in, and you get each and every day the available information, and if you are not interested about this piece of info its usually a simple key press away to go away. When you are visiting websites, you have to go to the place, get through the different way of presenting what you are looking for and if you are not interested you have to go through your bookmark and get to the next one. And it’s nearly undoable if you are interested in website that are updated every now and then.

    Feeds are putting the user in control, a web site as good as it can be, will have a hard time providing that.

    Guillaume

    PS: when a website is a remote application the problem is different, but then a feed would not provide this information
    PPS: people maintaining the different feed standard should also make sure that they do not include too much fancy stuff otherwise they will lose a lot of their interest and just become *pushed website*.

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