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Does presentation matter anymore?

Just a meme I’m still kicking around at the moment, but it goes like this:

With the massive uptake of RSS (a content delivery mechanism that doesn’t include presentational information) does presentation matter anymore?

I can remember spending months and months working in the team that was involved in the redesign of the BBC News website a few years ago. Everyday, the values that went into that redesign are being made more redundant as more people turn to RSS to receive their BBC News.

Does this just mean the importance of presentation moves up the stack – from content promotion to feed promotion?

Or does it go out of the window entirely? With RSS there is presentation. It’s just user-selected presentation – either explicitly through a custom stylesheet or implicitly through the choice of newsreader used (and it’s look and feel is uses to render the content). Either way, it’s no longer under the control of the content provider, so why bother?


Sure, in 2005 for the average site most people are still looking at HTML pages, and so presentation is still important for now. But I’m thinking about pro-orientated sites now, and mainstream sites in the future.

Published in Thoughts and Rants Web Services


  1. I agree – it’s about the ideas not the way they are tarted up. But then I have been a text fetishist for some time now!

  2. There’s still a bit of presentation to think about with RSS, making sure that images display as a block element, use of italic and bold (or rather and ), etc, but I agree that mostly presentation isn’t as important as it is on a website.

    If the content is good enough, then the presentation doesn’t really matter too much. Reading plainly marked-up text in a consistant (ie feedreader-assigned) style is simply faster than having to adjust to a different style for each site…

  3. Ah fuck, I should have course escaped the <angle brackets> in that comment…

  4. I think it’s still important.

    I mean, we can’t use an RSS reader at work for example, but we still look at BBC News. 🙂

  5. With the BBC, that produces a lot of content via RSS, I think presentation on the website is still important. But that’s because I use the RSS feed to scan headlines and click through to the site to read those that interest me. News feeds are one of few pleaces where I would not like full content – give me the headlines only.

  6. Oscar Wilde: “Only shallow people think appearances are unimportant.” 😉

  7. In this case presentation is an important issue indeed. If I would implement RSS on my website (, as a webdesigner I would make sure any article or headline would look good, with CSS for instance.

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