Viral videos and popular, shared links are fun and entertaining, but finding really solid, important posts on UX is a critical part of learning and improving my skills as a designer. Designers in the past were responsible for just one niche, but today designers are a hybrid of graphics, coding, research, copywriting, and all sorts of other related issues.
Improving your skills depends a lot on who or what is influencing you and how you take those influences and apply them to your work. It isn’t enough to be a pro at using Adobe Creative Suite. It’s far more important to know what the trends are among designers and for that there is no substitute for reading.
RSS has been around since 1995. It’s an “ancient” tool. Web syndication is to the internet what the wheel was to cavemen. Regardless, RSS provides a really basic function– It gathers everything I need in to one place. If every article I wanted/needed to read were a leaf, then my RSS feeder would be a leafblower…or at least a rake…
That said, RSS feeders are surprisingly underutilized and they are also poorly designed for the most part. The most popular RSS feeder is Google Reader, but the reader cannot be customized like GMail can be. The color scheme is always the same (no option to change) and the UI is among the worst I’ve seen from Google on anything. It is cumbersome, but perhaps the most critical mistake among RSS feeders is that it is BORING!
I read amazing articles. I’m shocked day after day. My learning on design spans from color theory to industrial design to usability to architectural trends and fashion trends. This is really fascinating material, but most RSS feeders have such a boring interface that the content doesn’t jive with the UI.
There is, however, one RSS feeder that I use everyday– Feedly.
I’ve written about my love for Feedly before, but I want to highlight this great tool again because it is such a critical part of my life. Feedly helps make my learning pleasurable in a way that Google Reader failed to do. Because of that pleasure I’m able to read more, surf more, write more, and indirectly this all helped me get a job. Feedly makes a magazine out of my favorite blogs. It’s customized and colorful.
There is a global information grab. Everyone in my business wants to be cutting edge. I’m expected to have an opinion on the Ubuntu phone, iPad mini, Windows 8, CSS3, Flash, Fireworks, medical uses for the iPad, Facebook logins, Gaussian blurred background, huge CTA buttons, and a million other semi-related topics. My views on literally thousands of topics shape the way I design and my designs are what keep me employed (and my dog fed by proxy!). The same is true of millions of designers worldwide who are looking for the same edge, the same opinions, and the same information. We are all in the same boat trying to carve out a space for ourselves.
Being cutting edge and keeping up to date are so critical to design that those who fail to do so will be outdated (and feasibly unemployed) so quickly that it is a risk NOT to be cutting edge. The global desire for information is at an all time high, and without an RSS reader I couldn’t keep up.