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I think for all websites it would be a MUST to ensure the RSS icon is displayed in the address bar!

But there are tons of pages, who don't care and even hide the RSS icon somewhere on the site.

What do you offer your clients, where to place the RSS icon?

...is there a so called optimal placement? Is there any study on this topic?

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The site can't place the RSS icon in the address bar - that's something that the browsers do. You don't have any control over that. –  Charles Boyung Feb 17 '11 at 14:31
    
For example here is cnet.com - they have RSS but the icon does not appear in the address bar. They should include RSS code in the header (html) on every site. This is what I wanted to point out. –  Roland Pokornyik Feb 17 '11 at 14:37
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Actually @Charles you do have some control over the RRS icon in the address bar, the RSS <link ... /> can be omitted from your page code and it won't show in the address bar. –  jameswanless Feb 17 '11 at 17:55
    
@jameswanless & @Roland - But it still only shows up if the browser puts it there. Chrome doesn't and the new version of FireFox doesn't either; IE puts it in with the other toolbar icons - not in the address bar. –  Charles Boyung Feb 17 '11 at 18:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Unless you have multiple feeds, I would place it in the same list as your social profile icons (not to be confused with "share this page on social networks" links).

As for the best location of this list, it was discussed in the question Social share buttons best position (on top of the page seems to be the most popular).


Also, you may want to read the article "RSS is Being Ignored, and You Should Be Very Worried" about the recent changes of RSS support in web browsers.

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This article points out the problems of RSS well! ...but still there is no other solution instead –  Roland Pokornyik Feb 17 '11 at 14:06

The optimal placement depends on what the RSS feed contains. For example, some sites provide multiple RSS feeds from the same core data set.

I worked on a system that collected reporting for an organization from around the world. These reports were organized based on origin, topic, and date (think geo-location and tags). The organization's analysts and the analysts from cooperating organizations only cared about slices of information. Once the user narrowed their scope of what they wanted, they could get a dedicated RSS feed for that scope.

In this case, we had a link for the custom RSS feed in the right panel above the tag cloud for the feed. The list of items was in the left panel.

This particular system also supported comments, and for particular hot topics it was useful for the analysts to have an RSS feed for that one article. The only had to look in the same location for the RSS feed when they were looking at an article.

Does this mean that everyone should have a 2:1 split and have RSS links at the top of the right panel? Hardly. It takes time to understand your audience. It made the most sense for this project. It seems to make a lot of sense for blogs. However, you may want to emphasize the RSS feed more by having the link at the top and bottom of the lists. Or you may reverse the split we had. You just have to fit it into your design and remain consistent with it's placement.

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+1 for the context of the feed data. –  jameswanless Feb 17 '11 at 17:56

It probably makes more sense to include all the site-wide feed options in the address bar. If they are included in the page markup most browsers will allow you to select which site feed you subscribe to when you click the address bar.

Then, if you are including more granular feeds in the page/article itself they should be contextually placed in a clear relationship to what they are related to. You can also consider appropriate attributes or description text with them to clarify.

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I think that an RSS icon should be made to appear on the address bar and somewhere in the page. The address bar is where RSS junkies (and likely power users) expect it to be. You can make the browser display the RSS icon with some HTML code:

 <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="..." href="..." />"

Where to place the icon on the page depends entirely on the contents, as @Berin pointed out, but:

  • Having it in the footer is always a safe bet. This doesn't prevent you from putting it somewhere else as well.

  • I strongly recommend that you do not use the RSS icon exclusively. Add the word "RSS" as well, for two reasons: a) accessibility, and b) when a page is very busy, I often search to look for the RSS link within the page; it's frustrating search fails and have to scan visually.

  • Depending on content, beware that Safari 5.0 will now display its Reader icon instead of your RSS icon, if the contents of the page can be displayed by its Reader feature, e.g.:

enter image description here

In other words, make sure that the RSS icon in the address bar is not the only place that it shows up.

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But like I mentioned in another comment - just about every browser is doing away with showing the RSS icon in the address bar - if Safari is still showing it, it's the only "major" browser left to do so (if you can call <5% major). –  Charles Boyung Feb 17 '11 at 19:55
    
Maybe you could say "well advertised?" –  Berin Loritsch Feb 18 '11 at 13:05
    
@Berin - were you referring to my comment? If so, then I would say no - Safari isn't well advertised. It only has what little market share it has because there are a lot of people that switched to Mac and don't know any better. –  Charles Boyung Feb 18 '11 at 13:53
    
Pretty much. I think it is more recognized than there are users for it. –  Berin Loritsch Feb 18 '11 at 14:40

The optimal place for any icon is the place on the page where:

  1. it is the most likely for users to search for it
  2. it is invisible when nobody cares for it (ie. not a annoyance)
  3. it is discoverable/advertised (ie. new users will notice it's presence)

Typically this is somewhere close to the title, or a very prominent control group; but your case may well be the exception—it all depends on context.

Let's take some examples for RSS:

  • fixed on one side of the page: bad, fails 2
  • at the bottom of the page: bad, fails 3 and 1 (scroll down a little on this page…did you notice there was a RSS icon there?)
  • at the bottom of the article: good, good enough support for 3
  • after the title: acceptable, not that great on 2
  • bellow the title with other meta: good
  • anywhere near the top: good
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