The RSS Customer Experience

Ivan Pope, now that's a name I've not heard for a while...

(Ivan is one of the 'old skool' onliners (I realise there where 'old, old skoolers' hacking arpanet 20 years ago, so 'old skool' as in 'commecial internet at least), who was one of the first to create a new kind of company in the UK...the web design firm.  Ivan team up with Steve Bowbrick and founded Webmedia in 1994, inspiring many to start similar firms in London (Online Magic, AKQA, Bluewave, and many more...he was also responsible for the creation of Netnames, and Nominet (formed to manage UK TLDs)...any how, I digress...)

Ivan makes couple of great points in a post he's labelled 'The RSS Mess'...and is coming at it from the consumer's (dare I say the 'customer experience')...perspective.  The first is the issue David Winer raised and called the Yahoo problem:

"What are all those little orange buttons? Why do they all have different names? Even at Feedburner, I can choose from XML, FEED, FEEDBURNER, Syndicate this site, Newsgator and My Yahoo. I'm sure the differences are all crystal clear to you, but the poor public won't have a clue what is going on. Simplyfy the name of this thing - and that's not aimed at Feedburner, though they could start it."

The solution to this problem is getting discussed, so we may have this sorted in a while.

The other point Ivan makes and I agree with 100% is the following:

"If I'm interested and I click on an XML/RSS/FEED, why why why do I get a page of raw code? What honest use is that to a punter? And if I don't get a page of code, I get offered a chance to save the file. Surely rule number one of the Web is to not give your visitors stuff they don't need and don't understand. How about flipping them to a page that tells them how to use the XML address to subscribe? You'll get a lot more subscribers and a lot fewer people who just think the whole XML thing is stupid. Including me."

He's right...and it's all very well for the tech smarty pants lot to go 'duh!'...but if we're going the get RSS out of the napppies and into the mainstream, these kind of crap unhelpful user experiences need to get cleaned up.

So, how can the raw xml problem get sorted?  How can we make the overall RSS customer experience better, easier?

Comments (4)

  1. Jon Galloway says:

    One big step that’s pretty easy to do is put a stylesheet on the feed (with media type set to screen, just in case). Aggregators will ignore it, but when someone clicks on the XML button they see a page that explains what a feed is.

    Adam mentions it in your link – his RSS looks nice in a browser:

    Pretty simple to implement:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>

    <?xml-stylesheet href="/common/rss.xsl" type="text/xsl" media="screen"?>

    <rss version="2.0">

  2. Alex Barnett says:


    Thanks for pointing this out. A lot nicer.


  3. Jacob Nielsen’s written up a look-back article on the 10th anniversary of his widely read Alertbox column…

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