Make Your Blog Easy To Subscribe To

by Bob Plankers on February 28, 2013 · 4 comments

in Best Practices,System Administration,Virtualization

A quick hint: if you want people to read your writings on a regular basis make the link to your RSS or Atom feed dead simple to find. Somewhere that doesn’t require the user to scroll to see, uses the well known, industry-standard RSS icon that is freely available, and has the word “feed” in the link.

I run into this problem often, especially with blogs hosted on Blogger or Blogspot and overly fancy WordPress themes that emphasize good looks (and mouseover events) instead of usability. For example, I just was reading a post from a blogger who has a really nice personal website, with a blog integrated into it. There’s absolutely no link to the feed anywhere. I searched the page for the word “feed” and got nothing. I searched for “RSS” and got some “Share This” widget under the posts, which isn’t what I wanted to do. Since the blog is at sitename.com/blog/ I guessed that the feed is at sitename.com/blog/feed/, popped that into a browser, but that’s some sort of comment feed.

My willingness to play cat & mouse with content is low. I gave the author a minute of my time by reading what they had to say, and I’m willing to spend 10 seconds more adding them to Google Reader. But that’s about it, because I’ve got stuff to do. In this case the blogger’s post was a link retweeted by a friend, so it’s probable that they have decent content, but they lost the one opportunity they had to convert me to a subscriber. I gave up and moved on.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little design you have if it doesn’t help people do what they need to do. If you want people to read your stuff on a regular basis make it dead simple & obvious for people to subscribe.

{ 4 comments }

Colin February 28, 2013 at 4:30 PM

A really common that a blog also needs is the <link> attribute to help automated crawlers find the feed. e.g. from your blog:

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”The Lone Sysadmin RSS Feed” href=”http://lonesysadmin.net/feed/” />

Most blogging engines will automatically add it, like Wordpress and Blogger.

Bob Plankers February 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Yes, WordPress and others do add that, which helps. I still don’t feel like I should need to view the source for a page to get the feed URL, though. :)

Chris Siebenmann February 28, 2013 at 5:05 PM

If the blog has the -based ‘feed autodiscovery’ enabled (and they all should if they have a syndication feed), any competent feed reader (including Google Reader) will accept just the blog’s main URL and discover the feed from that for you. An actual explicit visible link on the page should be there only as a distant fallback and I sympathize with authors that don’t want to give it much prominence.

(I suspect that this feed reader feature is not as well known as it should be.)

Bob Plankers March 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM

So basically what you’re saying is that the world has fixed this problem, and like a curmudgeon I’m complaining that the old, complicated way doesn’t work anymore? :)

Kidding aside, I agree, I didn’t really think about pasting just the base URL in until you mentioned it. I do enjoy just clicking on a link and having it added to Google Reader.

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