This post isn’t about QA in the strictest sense, though you could argue it touches on the ideas of usability and user experience, which are things I often have to test for. It also deals with one of my pet peeves, which makes it fair game for my own blog. That peeve is this: people who don’t make a subscribe option obvious for their own blogs. If you have a blog, there is one commandment you must, MUST follow: allow people to subscribe. I would even go so far as to say make it easy for them to subscribe. To take it even further, please syndicate your full content and not just lame two-sentence snippets or (God forbid) post titles only, but I understand that’s harder for people to come to grips with.
Back to allowing for easy subscription, let me point you to some examples. If you’re reading this blog through a feed reader – good for you. If you wouldn’t mind, click through (usually on the post title) to hit the actual website where this feed comes from. If you’re reading on the website already, keep going. Notice in the upper right corner of the page, there’s a button that looks much like the one at the beginning of this post. That’s the universal symbol for syndicated content. That means you can easily click on it and see the RSS (or atom, or whatever) feed for the blog, and then subscribe to it with your reader of choice. I went one step farther and even put a text link next to the button, which wasn’t strictly necessary, but I like to make things obvious.
Now, let’s look at some other sites that I really like, but unfortunately do not make it easy for the reader to subscribe, if she can subscribe at all.
What Liz Said. Here’s an awesome blog with an impressive amount of content, the kind of feed I’d LOVE to sink my teeth into. But look up and down the page. Go ahead – it’s long, but I’ll wait. Notice she’s got all kinds of awesome widgets going – recent posts, recent comments, tags, currently reading, etc., etc. What’s missing? Any kind of subscription option, that’s what! Luckily there’s a workaround. Most blogging software will automatically generate a feed for you, even if you choose not to publicize it (of course if you’re serious about this stuff then you want to use Feedburner, but that’s another post). When I can’t find a feed link anywhere on a blog’s front page (or supporting pages), I append one of the following to the URL: /feed, /rss, /rss.xml, /atom, /atom.xml. Eventually you an usually find a feed that way, and that’s how I was able to add the feed for “What Liz Said” to my Google Reader.
Why I Hate DC. A snarky local blog that I have enjoyed reading for over a year now, Why I Hate DC was recently turned over to a new editor/writer, after the previous one moved to Columbus, Ohio (ironically, I moved from here from Columbus). So far she hasn’t made many changes, which is unfortunate. I think the page design is kind of outdated, though I can live with it, but what annoys me most, of course, is the fact that the subscribe option is, again, hidden. No button or link is apparent, and you have to do the sneaky “append /atom.xml” trick to get it. Compounding the irritation, once you do subscribe to this feed, it’s one of those annoyingly truncated ones, so you still have to click through to the site to read a full post. But at least it lets me know if there’s anything up there I’m interested in on any given day.
The Art of the Title Sequence. “Art of the Title…” is a reformed candidate, because it now offers a feed! HURRAY! In fact, easy-to-find links to both web and iTunes feeds are now posted, right at the top of the page. This is one of my most favorite sites/blogs, and I could spend hours just browsing the archives. And now there’s a feed, so I don’t have to click back every few days to see if something new has been posted. WIN.
So remember: if you blog, syndicate. For more technical information about RSS, see this Wikipedia article.