RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a file format based on XML that is popular for broadcasting and publishing web site content. You’ve probably seen the signature orange RSS icon on many blogs and web sites every day. With an RSS feed, a user can subscribe to a site’s content using one of nearly a dozen news aggregation programs available online. These programs will then periodically check the RSS feeds for new content and if any is available notify the user. RSS is an easy way to keep up to date on your favorite websites all in one place.
As a web designer, RSS feeds can be seen as a two-way street. You can, and should, produce RSS feeds for your own web site content. At the same time, you also have the ability to take the RSS feeds of other and insert their content into your own web sites. This is a great way to keep your site and web design constantly fresh with new and auto-updating content.
The hardest part of RSS is creating the feed. It has almost become standard for any blog design to include easy access to RSS subscription links so while this part is the hardest it is also the most important. Many of the popular content management systems have automatic RSS creation included within them. This makes the job of the web designer to add RSS to his site much easier. If that option isn’t available it is still relatively easy to construct your own RSS feed as long as you, or someone you can hire, has a beginner’s level knowledge of programming.
The great aspect of RSS is that people are publishing their content in a format that is built to be used by others. Integrating an RSS feed into a web design is much simpler than building your own feed. There are a lot of widgets, scripts and small programs that will let you take any publicly available RSS feed and integrate it seamlessly into your web design. By doing this you help the original authors of the content get links and exposure for their work while at the same time keeping your site constantly updated with new content. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
RSS is becoming a standard for web content publishers and while the adoption rate by the common Internet consumer hasn’t matched in intensity it is only a matter of time before the format becomes part of everyday life. There is no need to wait for that day to come though. You can start adding RSS feeds and integrating content from other RSS feeds into your web design today.