Health IS Technology Blog

RSS Feeds Versus Static Content


RSS feeds character carrying books

What Are RSS Feeds?

RSS stands for either “Rich Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication”, depending on who you’re talking to. According to Lifewire, RSS feeds “revolutionized” online content and how users interact with it. They explain RSS feeds as the following:

“Instead of checking back every day to any particular site to see if it’s been updated, RSS feeds give users the ability to simply subscribe to the RSS feed, much like you would subscribe to a newspaper, and then read the updates from the site, delivered via RSS feeds, in what’s called a ‘feed reader.”

As USF User Experience (UX) Researcher, Elyse Lewis explains, “RSS feeds are a convenient way to display a list of summarized information (e.g. news, articles, etc.), usually with links from within one website and leading to another.” Once you’ve subscribed to one, the idea is that you never need to check back to the site for updates – they come to you.

Look at this example of an RSS feed from NASA that lists their latest news stories:

Example of RSS Feeds

You can find NASA’s breaking news RSS feed from this link. However, if you are using Chrome as your browser, you will likely be brought to a page of code that looks like this:

RSS Feed Unsupported Example

This is because RSS feeds are not fully supported by Chrome, which also happens to be the most commonly used web browser.

What is Static Content?

Static simply remains the same or constant. This content is completely stagnant, like the text here on this page. It does not change dynamically or update automatically as RSS feeds do. The reason static content is so efficient is because it is so constant.

Take a look at the Mission, Vision, & Values page of the USF MD Program.

Static Content Screenshot

This page is full of static content. The page will look the same for me as it does for you, no matter what. That is the ultimate difference between static content and RSS feeds: RSS feeds are constantly changing, while static content stays the same.

Are RSS Feeds or Static Content Better for UX?

RSS toon icon with scissors isolated on white background

3d rendered human with a big book isolated on white background

Whether or not the content on your page is in a constant scroll or is completely stagnant, you need to be concerned about user experience (UX). Remember that user experience is all about how your end user is able to interact with your website, including all of its content. Of course, the easier it is for them to interact with your information, the better it is for your business.

Whether or not you choose to implement an RSS feed or just stick to static content is up to you and the needs of your site. However, it’s important that you know the effect each has on the UX of your website. For insight on this, we seek out the UX angle from Elyse Lewis. She explains,

“Static content will remain the same for anyone who attempts to view it but can be adjusted manually, when needed. It is often easier to secure such content and guarantee higher performance on pages that include it because it makes fewer demands on systems than content that is regularly changing or dynamic.”

If you remember, the RSS feed example shown above is not supported by Chrome. Because Chrome is the most commonly used web browser, that page of the site is not going to get very good ranks with Google or score any points with users. Microsoft Edge does not support RSS feeds either. Yes, NASA is doing just fine without the phenomenal ranking of their RSS feed, but not every site is NASA. You might not be able to afford that slight. More so, your user is not going to spend extra time trying to get your site to respond to their browser.

RSS feeds can be incredibly hard to access. Static content is always accessible. The fact is, the harder your content is to access, the easier it will be for your users to leave your site.

 

What are your thoughts on RSS feeds and static content? Are you subscribed to any RSS feeds? Let us know on our Facebook page!


USF Health Information Systems is a comprehensive technology group serving the needs of the Academic Research and Clinical missions. We partner with our customers to deliver agile responsive technology solutions that drive business value and make life better for our students and patients. Be informed at all times by visiting health.usf.edu/is/. You can connect directly via phone by calling (813) 974-6288 or by sending us an email via support@health.usf.edu, after hours.

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Bekah Witten
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Bekah is the content writer for the University of South Florida department of Information Technology.