Formatting Your RSS Feeds

When Really Simple Syndication (RSS) irrupted in our lives, most feeds were delivered straight to RSS readers (also called “RSS Aggregators) that displayed the information in a fancy way. Depending on the software, such feeds could be showed as pure text or with custom fonts, color backgrounds and even ornamental elements appealing to the eye.

Nowadays the RSS panorama has changed for good. Most modern browsers can display RSS without needing special software or custom format, although many of them may allow such additional formatting. However if your website provides web feeds to the surfer, you should put some time aside to style your feeds for an appealing display.

The most renowned blog publishing systems do no style your feeds alone, but have an integrated editor to style different template files used by the system itself. Find if your blogging software has this feature and do not start working on this task without making a full backup of your site first, including the database that empowers your content.

Scripts may store template and styling information into the database to improve loading time, so if you do not backup both files and database, there will not be any chance to go one-step back if something goes wrong. A simple misplacing comma in a style sheet or the omission of a statement in a XML file may cause more trouble than you can think.

However, you may find that there is not any XML file to edit in your software. Do not worry if this is true for your blog installation. Depending on the publishing system that you are using, feeds can be generated “on the fly” and therefore there is not such an editable file for this. Nonetheless, it is easy to add styling including an external cascade style sheet.

First of all, find what is the file or files containing the definitions to create your feeds. Such files are easily identifiable because they contain XML/RSS statements, along with reference to the feed source generator. Add to the top of those files the reference to your style sheet this way; “place less than/greater than sign pointing to the left, then question mark, wording should now be xml-stylesheet type, next the equal sign “text/css” href equal sign “name of your style file.css”, question mark, and then greater than/less than size pointing to the right.

Research to find step-by-step instructions for this, or troubleshoot coding problems that may arise when adding style to RSS. If everything fails or you are unsure about what to do, hire a coder to style them. This task is so fast and easy that does not require a huge disbursement, being an extra effort that your readers will appreciate.


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