The SOS Band may not have been thinking about web design when they recorded "Take Your Time (Do It Right)", but that doesn't mean we can't apply their words to our craft. "Baby we can do it, take the time, do it right." If you build your website right the first time, you'll reap the benefits sooner, and you'll save gobs of time when the time comes to make changes. I'll discuss various techniques worth doing right the first time like building a template driven site, using CSS, etc., later. Today, let's talk about displaying RSS feeds. And let's do it right.
First, what value do you get by putting an RSS feed on your site? Here are a few: Your site automatically gets fresh content whenever the newsfeed is updated. That brings a number of benefits: it increases the probability of people returning to your site, it makes your site more timely, and since you're site is constantly changing, search engines rank it higher and crawl it more often. RSS feeds are a great tool for importing content from other sites, as well as from other parts of your own site. Take a look at the "Info Bite" section on the left side of this page (you may need to scroll down a little). That comes from another of my blogs, and is imported into this page using RSS.
Let's do it
Oh, Let's do it
Our favorite script (full disclosure: we're the publisher) is CaRP. It comes in free and commercial versions, and can be configured to display a feed with virtually any styling you want. And unlike some of the other RSS parser scripts out there, doesn't require you to write a bunch of code to get from a the data structure it creates when it parses the feed to HTML--just set some configuration variables (or keep the defaults), and with a handful of lines of PHP code, you have your newsfeed. For starters, just download the free version, and follow the instructions in the README.html file.
At this point, everything else I was going to write can be found in an article I posted recently about using RSS feeds for search engine optimization, so I'll just link there and leave it at that. A few of the do-it-right concepts you'll see covered there include using semantic markup, using CSS, and avoiding giving your PageRank away through the newsfeed's links.
It shouldn't take you too much longer to get a newsfeed up and running. Here's a little more from the SOS Band for when you're done.
Take some time to laugh and smile
Lay your heavy load down
So we can stop and kick back
Take the time to do it right in the beginning, and you'll have more time to kick back and reap the benefits later.