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Uniformity in RSS Syndication

9:56 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'm a fan of RSS feeds: My collection of feeds from various websites within the webmaster community keep me up-to-date on the latest developments. I'm glad to see many major websites are adopting it. The way they are doing it puzzles me though.

What bothers me is that there seems to be a lack of uniformity, mostly when it comes to labeling feeds. Today, I browsed dozens of websites that offer syndication. One might label them as RSS Feeds, but then links to the feeds with a button that says XML, and another does the exact opposite. Isn't that confusing? What could be the thought behind that, if any? If I am going to add an RSS feed to my site, how should I label it?

Having buttons for various web-based RSS readers (My Yahoo, NewsGator, Rajo - just to name a few) ought to make it easier for the user, providing they are users of at least one of those services, but when do you stop adding buttons for new readers that seem to be popping out of the ground like mushrooms lately?

1:54 pm on Apr 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

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As ever the best approach is KISS (keep it simple stupid). My approach has always been to make it appropriate for the intended audience, assuming your site targets a specific audience. Therefore, if it was a site for users you knew were technically capable, something like Java programmers for example, you would be fine with XML Feed, or RSS feed etc.

If your audience is more general (the situation I am in) the chances are this will confuse them. I tend to keep it very obvious e.g. RSS News Feed.

The best terminology should use appropriate wording - so it it's for news headlines, then call it 'RSS News Headlines'. If it's products - 'Our Latest Products', and so on.

The fact is most general users are completely ignorant of RSS and what it does. So don't hold your breath.

Another tip is to avoid those orange 'XML' GIFs. They mean absolutely nothing to most people. I'd suggest you use the Firefox orange 'announcement' icon. Microsofts IE7 team have agreed with Firefox to adopt this as the de facto icon for RSS anyway, so I suggest you adopt it now.

Finally, in my opinion, I would avoid the use of 'My Yahoo' type icons. If XML and RSS icons confuse people, then these other ones will too. The people who actually use personalised feed collectors and the like will know how to add them without you supplying a (suspicious looking) button. And they look tacky.

Hope this helps.

1:58 pm on Apr 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yes, in my work with NewsTopica, I have found there are many different types of feeds, and it makes the developer's job much more difficult trying to have compatability with all.

What a lot of people don't know is that RSS is no longer being developed and Atom is really the future.