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Problems Identifying Feed Links

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Dave Winer posts today on the issue of finding a standard way to alert readers to the presence of a webfeed. Yeah, I agree -- what a pain that we have no standardization. I'm more amazed when I've gone to some prominent blogs that I simply cannot find their feeds anywhere. I end up going over to Yahoo, then doing a search because if it has found the feed address, it will list that below the page itself. Other times, there's just no consistency.

Here's a rundown of just a few of the blogs I read on a regular basis that show how it can be difficult to recognize when a feed is offered:

  • Anil Dash: In the middle of the page, you'll find the feed with this text: AtomEnabled (XML). Did you scroll to find it? Do you know Atom = feed?
  • Boing Boing: Nice. Right at the top, easy to spot, is this link: rss. Only downside? If you don't know RSS = feed, then you might miss out.
  • Dan Gillmor: I missed it initially, then finally spotted over in the right-hand column in small type: Syndicate this site (XML). Syndicate This Site? Sure, common wording for many blogs -- but bad wording. It's helpful only to those who understand that "syndicate" means I can take your feed and put it on my site. But a reader just wanting to read your feed? These words mean nothing -- especially to those who are new.
  • Jason Kottke: Nothing I spotted on the home page was immediately obvious as a feed link. Following through to the About page, skimming that showed nothing obvious as well. On the Archive page, you do get a mention within a paragraph of info. So the feed is a click from the home page and not immediately recognizable.
  • David Krane: Typical of what I find often with Blogger-based blogs, nothing obvious on the home page. I've looked and looked. Instead, to find the feed of this blog from one of Google's marketing chiefs, I had to go to rival search engine Yahoo, search for kraneland, then select the View as XML link that showed up under kraneland's listing. Thank you, Yahoo!

I grappled with what to do about highlighting feeds when we first started one for Search Engine Watch over a year ago. I went with using the little XML and RSS icons that I'd seen many other blogs use. Why both? To ensure even more recognition.

In addition, we now accompany them by a text link saying All Newsletters & Feeds in our left nav, which brings up a page showing all the feeds we offer. On the blog itself, there's also a separate listing for just the blog feed with both the icons and a Click For Blog Feed! link.

I certainly don't have the perfect solution. Like Dave, I simply wish there was some way that anyone with a feed could alert people that it is present. A standardized logo would help. I'd go with the word "Feed" as part of it to skip past the stupid RSS versus Atom debate. Since most feedreaders don't care the exact feed format, using the word Feed would be sufficient.

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