In this post, we revisit what it is that makes a heading more user friendly, and why headings play an important role in the use of any website.
FeedScrub.com (http://www.feedscrub.com) is a service that acts as a customizable spam filter for your RSS feeds. The site is effective because the interface is simple. The service is currently in a Private Beta, but if you want to try it you can get early access with the invite code: uxbooth.
FeedScrub is an Invite Only Service
You can give it a test drive yourself and post what you think. Just use the invite code uxbooth when you’re signing up for instant access.
The first thing I notice about feedscrub is the animated RSS feed. It’s an exciting and playful visual that immediately orients me to think about RSS. I then read the copy: Keep your feeds squeaky clean! Hmm, what does that mean? The bullet points below make it super simple to get the point. Lastly, the signup form appears on the right. This is a wonderful layout because it pulls my eye from the left to the center and then right to the signup form.
My first impression of Feed Scrub is very positive. The design is easy on the eyes and there is enough white space to allow my eyes to easily navigate across the home page. The index is clearly divided into 4 sections. First, we have a fun icon and a three part list that describes what feed scrub is all about. The next three parts of the web page make up the bottom half of Feed Scrub and are all very well presented. The first section is why use it, next is how does it work, and finally is latest news. The first two are more important to users and are made to draw your eye more readily with a black background and illustrations.
This site is exactly the kind that I like. It’s clean, crisp, clear, engaging, and it’s very easy to see what the intent behind it is from the get go. I love the simple layout, giving me access to everything I need. There are detailed examples on the front page of what the site does, as well as a good simple news feed.
FeedScrub’s front page is crystal clear with how it portrays the service. The benefits of using FeedScrub are presented immediately in three simple points, and after I read “Feedscrub acts as a spam filter for your RSS feeds,” I have a good mental image of what FeedScrub does. My first instinct is to look for a sign up button. I quickly find a place to sign up and realize that it currently requires an invite code. Luckily, UX Booth has one (uxbooth if you’d like to try yourself).
What Confuses Us
I find very little confusing about the Feedscrub service. If I had to nitpick, I would say that the name “Control Panel” isn’t the best choice of words, as this is the member area of the site and let’s you manage your feeds. Secondly, I would say that it’s difficult to figure out how to logout of the service. More specifically, the top navigation serves two purposes: learn about the feedscrub service and manage your current user session. This is disorienting.
Lastly, I would suggest what “filter smartness” means. It’s sort of ambiguous what a 100% smart filter would do for me, as a user.
The process that confused me the most was scrubbing and saving articles from my feeds. It was easy enough to add these feeds, then proceed to the training page. Once I started to save and scrub I was left confused and frustrated. This orange animated loading symbol is still there! I’ve waited well over two minutes and I am lead to think this process is still loading.
I would strongly recommend looking into this suspected bug. Users who are savvy enough to know to use RSS may understand this is a bug and move on. But, if they do not, then you may lose them as a customer.
I was all on board and gung ho about FeedScrub, loving the simplicity and clarity of design to distraction. Then I tried to sign up to use the service and I couldn’t. Usability 101: Make sure your sign up works. It told me that my email address was invalid. Both of them. Ouch.
Also, on the front page the date field overlaps the post title, which just looks messy. But honestly, not being able to sign up for the service would have me leaving the site never to return again. Sorry.
The train filter area of FeedScrub is where users help FeedScrub learn what they want to read, and what they don’t want to read. Posts are listed on this page, but are not linked to for full viewing. When clicked, a brief excerpt of the post is shown, but it lacks formatting of any kind making it a pain to read. Furthermore, images aren’t shown. This is a small detail in the greater scheme of things.
What We Like
Feedscrub offers a comprehensive video tutorial to get users started using feedscrub with Google reader. There’s little left to want in this department. After creating an account, this allows me to integrate feedscrub with my life and get back to reading my feeds. It also helps to wrap your mind around how they intend for you to use the service.
The visual design and site-navigation is clear and intuitive. My eye knows where to look for important functions.
I’ve already expressed how much I love them home page. The organization and included sections work perfectly! This site avoids most of the common pitfalls that we encounter at UX Booth.
I have talked about how to listen to your viewers in the past and am excited to see you use such a service. I think this particularly works well with Feed Scrub, being a service that can be shaped as it grows by its users.
This site does a really good job of outlining and explaining it’s purpose right there on the front page. Feedscrub uses your activity to clean your feeds, so that when you are using your feed reader you are having the kinds of post you dislike filtered out, so your unread count isn’t inflated.
This kind of tool would be incredibly useful for me as I often struggle to keep my feed reader under control.
The site explains it clearly, the About section is also very well done. The news feed has a clear subscribe option.
I also like the “You want in, but will you make it through our rigorous application form below?” comment, which directs you to simply submit your email address.
The front page of FeedScrub is very well put together. Information is presented in bite sized chunks that help the user quickly understand the point of the site, and then dig deeper if they wish to. For example, there are three bullet points that sum up the purpose of Feed Scrub, and lower down on the page is a much more informative “How does it work” section. Websites that try to introduce users to a service with too much copy can actually put off viewers who would otherwise find the service very useful simply because it seems too difficult to learn. FeedScrub is easy to use, easy to learn and it’s easy to get started with.
There are also useful tool tips for new users once you sign in. These tips quickly direct attention to what needs to be done next helping me learn how to use the site in no time at all. Blank slates can sometimes be confusing for first time users who aren’t familiar with an interface—FeedScrub addresses this problem in a non-intrusive way.
Conculsion & Suggestions
Feedscrub is an extremely simple and intuitive service. For people who already digest their content using RSS Feeds, it’s a breeze to setup and make use of the service. Unfortunately, I’m not the ideal user of this service: I don’t use my RSS reader nearly as often enough to make this service useful to me—I mainly read books.
Overall, though, feedscrub doesn’t confuse me. The service is extremely straightforward, and has enormous potential. By leveraging its network, the service could suggest related feeds, making feedscrub infinitely valuable. Services like this will be invaluable in the future for helping users digest the ever-increasing amount of content on the Internet.
- Explain your foundation — Feedscrub essentially provides a customizable spam-filter for your RSS Feeds. However, many Internet users don’t use RSS feeds, take spam-filters for granted, and have no interest in customizing them. Explain what these technologies are and what they mean for potential users.
- Focus Attention — I would suggest reducing the contrast of the right column. As it presently stands it draws more attention than it deserves.
- Design for familiarity — If the service becomes more complex, consider designing your service so that it more closely resembles an RSS reader (ie: Google Reader). This would allow users to get up to speed more quickly.
In closing I’d love to commend the folks at Feed Scrub. I really think you all are off on the right foot! The best advice I can offer in your situation is to stick to conventions. In UX I have seen conventions consistently. If it is working, stick to it. As a source of conventions I would refer to currently largely used RSS readers such as Google Reader. Here are a few suggestions I have for you all:
- Link that RSS icon to a feed so that I can stop clicking on it and going nowhere! :) This RSS icon is a clear call to action for me to be able to subscribe. If this is not what it is meant to be used for then I would change it.
- Make those social site icons link on your about page.
- Add a way to view the instruction video on the home page. I found this video through the blog, and then later on my profile page. It would be a great way to recruit new users who enjoy watching a short video instead of reading about a product.
- Fix the train filter: so that the loading symbol is not always showing.
- Fix overlapping date/title issue on the news feed
- Fix signup form, making it actually work
- Include a site footer
- Include an easily accessible contact form
FeedScrub is very well done in my opinion. I had no trouble understanding what I could do with the site, signing up, or getting started, and that alone is a sign of a well designed web application.
- Allow basic formatting in post excerpts such as paragraph breaks for easier reading. Including images may also help with the decision process of marking a Feed to be liked or scrubbed. Linking to the full post may also help users make informed decisions.
- When a feed is currently saved or scrubbed, an animation plays as if something is being saved. This animation doesn’t stop which caused me to believe I couldn’t leave the page without losing the information I saved. This could be a bug.
- Would a “Reset Specific Feed” Training button be a good addition to the “Reset Training” Button? Maybe a user only wants to reset one of their feeds. Giving the user an undo option here also wouldn’t hurt.
Write for UX BoothContribute to UX Booth
Contribute a guest post to UX Booth and let the community know what's important to you!