Web Feeds Lack Traditional Visual Cues

Album Cover: Sea Change

"How could this love, ever changing, never change the way I feel?"
Beck / Lonesome Tears

Posted on February 17, 2007 10:18 PM in Blogging
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I'm no stranger to the concept of visual cues and how they can aid memory. I know I've talked about it several times before in previous posts. Because I have a photographic memory (if you believe in such things), I rely on visual cues on a daily basis, particularly when reading content on the web. Unfortunately, the advent of web feeds has led to an increased decline in the amount of visual cues available along with all the content one might choose to consume. For that very reason, I am relying less and less on my photographic memory and more and more on other aspects of my memory to remember who blogged what.

I can no longer always rely on the beautiful hues of a site like SimpleBits or the purple accents of a site like Simon Willison's blog to provide my memory with the meta data needed to make retrieving that content and its source easier later on down the line. Instead, I'm faced with the same, cold colors and interface provided by my feed reader for almost all the content I consume. This has its benefits, of course, in that it makes my reading experience more efficient (I'm no longer submitted to all the context-switching involved with jumping from one web design to another), but it really takes a toll on my memorization capabilities. I remember the content just fine, but where it came from is often nothing more than a mystery.

It will be interesting to see how this might change in the future. I'd imagine feed readers might evolve to a point where visual cues become more prevalent, while still allowing for the common feel and interface that makes the reading experience so efficient.

In anticipation of these types of advances, I jumped over to Jonathan Snook's site tonight and read up on adding a logo to a web feed. As that particular entry points out, the major feed readers have, with the exception of Bloglines, done a fairly poor job of integrating the feed logos provided by bloggers to provide a personal touch to the feed reading experience. Nevertheless, I've added the following logo to my web feed tonight:

Web Feed Logo

Hopefully it won't be long before it starts showing up in my favorite feed reader.

Comments

Zach Katkin Florida Web Design on February 28, 2007 at 7:17 AM:

I too appreciate, and now miss, the visual cues great web sites exude... although I never realized it until they were removed for the sake of efficiency. Google Reader is my favorite as well, and for now, I am willing to sacrifice the look of the website for the speed and simplicity of reader.

How do you propose a system for more elaborate feed decoration be set up? Should it be the responsibility of the feed readers to generate an appropriate feel, maybe color coding content in some associative general way. Google assigns a light blue hue to general business news content, while it associates feminine product announcements with a deep red (just kidding)?

Or should a standard be created for replicating the appearance of a feed across different readers?

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