Jeffrey Veen is continuing the discussion about how to represent 'Add Feed' to users, struggling to find a better alternative than the orange XML icon (and the subsequent click through and viewing of heinous and confusing xml). Its a valiant struggle, but I think the effort is futile. You simply shouldn't need a visible link in the web page for users to add a feed. The most lucid approach is explained (briefly) by Sam Ruby in the comments- let the reader applications do the work rather than trying to do it yourself! (Because let's face it, you've got a lot of explaining to do if you're trying to help users who don't understand RSS and showing them the guts of the system doesn't really help. Maybe instead, you should try explaining the web by discussing HTTP Gets and Posts!).
Onfolio takes an approach that I really like (not suprisingly). Since it is embedded in IE or Firefox, and it includes a toolbar that appears in the top right hand corner of the browser, we can make adding a feed very straightforward, and not rely on the web page to try to make it easy on users. Here's a nice little picture of how Onfolio looks in Firefox.
When you navigate around the web, Onfolio's toolbar is keeping an eye on the pages that you are viewing and looking for link tags that provide a feed url. When the toolbar detects one for the current page, it lights up:
Press the button, and you add the feed to Onfolio. It's really that simple. At no point are you required to view XML. If you're visiting a page that doesn't include a feed, the button is still there, but it isn't lit up, indicating that there isn't a feed here:
Pretty straightforward for users- they just press add when they want to add a feed. It even supports multiple feeds on a page (for example, our support forum home page has feeds for each of our forums)- when you press 'Add Feed', you get prompted with a dialog asking which feeds you'd like to subscribe to, and showing you as list of the choices.
There are a couple of the advantages of this approach:
1) Users always know how to add a feed- press the add feed button. This means that there is no need to search the page for a link somewhere, sometimes as a text link, sometimes as a button. There is no need to copy a feed url, or drag a link, etc... Press a button. Nice.
2) There is a consistent way for authors to notify feed consuming applications that feeds are available- in the page itself. No need to get users involved in the implementation details such as syndication using a particular xml format. (I'm especially bummed out about pages that let you choose atom or RSS, I mean do I really need to make that choice?). Just include a link tag the provides the feed urls, and the reader applications should take care of the rest.