Providing Outbound Communication
Most internet sites are mired in one way communication with their visitors: person arrives, consumes content and leaves. Outbound communication is critical to reminding previous visitors that you’ve new content available.
Perhaps blogs have spoiled designers and the more web-savvy, but over the past two or three years I’ve less and less patience with old-school websites that have no means of outbound communication.
I define “outbound communication” as any means of letting me know me when a site is updated. At a minimum, this would involve an e-mail newsletter; ideally, RSS feeds would be available on every significant section of your site. I would happily accept a site-wide, generic feed. Anything. Just a little flag in my inbox to let me know you’ve added some content.
I credit Six Apart for their foresight in the early versions of Movable Type. They made RSS a built-in feature, stirring interest in the general web community about this whole syndication concept, creating a network of early adopters, influencing every subsequent blog platform and building a market for RSS aggregators. Now, a blog without a feed is like a runner without shoes. Or a dog without a tail. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, not every website is a blog, and most sites are not built with a CMS. Especially the small, independent sites that comprise 80% of the Intarweb’s original content. Having to recently research a project — and needing to constantly check on these sites for updated information — I was almost shocked that I had to revisit them to see if there were updates.
The sobering reality is that most sites are locked into standards (not “web standards”) from the late 90’s, when you could hire your cousin to create some frame-diseased nonsense in Adobe ImageReady. I know because I used to be that cousin.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution except to stress to site owners and designers to no longer expect visitors to ever return to your site if not reminded by a little RSS or e-mail notification. The web is crowded place. Most information is not unique. It’s no longer who has the best info — it’s who has the path of least resistance to getting that info.