Interface Elements for Providing Feeds and Having People Subscribe to Them

There are many options for creating an interface element that points to your syndication feed. Below are some of the most popular ones: Plain old XML icon The original, orange XML button popularized by Dave Winer Part of Jeremy Hedley’s reworked buttons (my personal favorites) XML A CSS-only XML icon Feed Technology Specific RSS Orange […]

There are many options for creating an interface element that points to your syndication feed. Below are some of the most popular ones:

Plain old XML icon

Feed Technology Specific

  • RSS Orange RSS icon
  • Atom Orange Atom icon

Branded icons

Branded icons are provided by blog readers in an attempt to get people familiar with those readers to one-click subscribe.

  • Feedburner XML button
  • Add to MyYahoo button
  • Add to NewsGator button
  • Sub with Bloglines button
  • Add to Rojo button

Text Links

There are also many different ways to say that you have a feed in text. Some are much more clear than others:

  • “RSS Feed”
  • “ATOM Feed”
  • “Syndicate this Site”
  • “Grab my XML feed”
  • “Subscribe to Feed”
  • “Add New York Times RSS feeds”

In addition, several sites provide more in-depth explanation for subscribing to feeds on a separate page for those curious enough to click through.

What Method is Best?

Every now and again someone will bring up how confusing it can be to learn about feeds and how they work. Jeff Veen talked about the usability of subscribing to feeds recently. Molly Holzschlag recently asked “where’s your feed?” while conducting a survey on where feed links are placed. Steve Rubel points to a ZDNet bit discussing the poor naming of RSS and the confusion that it brings. He agrees with David Coursey, who wants something as simple as “subscribe” feature on applications. So, given that we’ve identified so many ways to provide a feed, what’s the best one?

User Centered Language

I think the folks in the “subscribe” camp are on the right track. Consider the definitions of subscribe and syndicate on dictionary.com

  • syndicate: To sell (an article or cartoon) for publication in many magazines or newspapers at the same time
  • subscribe: To authorize (someone) to receive or access electronic texts or services, especially over the Internet

It’s pretty clear that syndicating a web site is what developers do, and subscribing to a site is what readers do.

So, continuing this evolutionary process in providing clarity for our readers, we might improve our interfaces by offering a button for our feeds that tells users what they can do with it: subscribe.

Here’s one possibility:

Join the discussion | Bokardo Interface

Published: July 7th, 2005

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