RSS Icons on the Homepage

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 3 June 2005

Today the homepage gained new RSS icons underneath the News and Sport headlines, linking through to the relevant feeds.

RSS icons on the homepage

I'm really pleased, because last summer when I was given my current remit for the homepage, adding links to the BBC's RSS feeds was on my mental check-list of things to do. It has taken nearly a year. That isn't because people were fighting against it, but rather that it has never been a top priority, nor did the time seem right.

At the moment though, with BBC News pushing their RSS offering very heavily, it seemed the right time to take the plunge. We did have some mock-ups using a rather more tasteful blue RSS icon, but in the end it was felt, correctly, that it was better to stick with a uniform iconography across the whole site - even if the orange looks a bit off-colour next to the blue.

An interesting point for me is that had we put this decision through user testing, my gut instinct tells me that the majority of our users would not understand what the icon was for, and so we'd probably be advised to drop it. I think though it is worth putting new technology in front of our audience, and seeing what they make of it.

Still, sometimes it is very difficult to get your head out of the clouds of super-user land. I think the major uptake of RSS as an end customer proposition is still a long way off. We need to show people how RSS is useful to them. And probably give it a name that isn't a three letter geek acronym. My dad would understand a link marked 'Email the BBC'. I doubt he'd follow an icon that said 'SMTP/POP3 us'.

The 'What is RSS' link goes through to a painstaking and resolutely non-geeky explanation of the technology from BBC News:

In a world heaving under the weight of billions of web pages, keeping up to date with the information you want can be a drag.

Wouldn't it be better to have the latest news and features delivered directly to you, rather than clicking from site to site? Well now you can, thanks to a very clever service, RSS.

If putting the idea of RSS in front of the audience that visits the homepage can help the technology gain more mainstream adoption, I'm all for it.

1 Comment

Did you check out Jeff Veen's posting on user communication and RSS? - the post and the associated comments are interesting; personally I'm in favour of the "What is this?" approach the BBC is using at present:

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