Prldr: RSS Meets Design and Everybody Wins

Ever skip a headline in your RSS reader because you don’t feel like investigating whether it’s worth your time? It sounds lazy, but time is scarce and the proliferation of content on the Web means that vaguely intriguing headline could turn out to be a waste of a minute (or more!) that you could have spent looking at something awesome.

Today a Netherlands-based developer released a visual RSS reader he’s been building as a weekend project. Like the blockbuster iPad app Flipboard, it’s a way to browse the Web that’s simple and fun and makes sense to the eye. The best part? No scraping.

Basically, Prldr lets you view the content you’ve subscribed to in its native environment without leaving the comfort of your RSS reader. Most RSS readers display a headline, text and maybe an image, but Prldr preloads Web pages so you see items as the publisher meant them to be seen. It’s like the difference between text-only and HTML emails.

The reader displays your feeds in a color-coded sidebar on the left and loads Web pages on the right for fast, easy browsing. Scan headlines, click to see the content as it appears on the page, and decide at a glance whether an item is worth reading. If so, you can read it without ever leaving the comfort of your RSS reader. If not, you can immediately move on.

The format is not always ideal for reading – elements don’t always load fast, sometimes don’t load at all, and some pages may not quite fit in the iframe if you’re browsing on a smaller screen.

But prldr has a lot going for it. A major bright spot is the fact that it not copy and paste from Web pages, which would deprive publishers of the page views needed to monetize their content. Instead the reader opens pages from your RSS feeds and preloads the page elements, including ads, in the background. This means that unlike Flipboard, views in prldr are registering as page views for content producers.

“I always hated RSS readers because they stripped out the visual context, design has value, I think. It’s also nicer for the content producer, as ads and comments and recommendations are also shown,” creator Jaap van der Meer wrote in an email.

“I always hated RSS readers because they stripped out the visual context. Design has value, I think.”
– prldr creator Jaap van der Meer

Van der Meer is thinking about adding a mobile version of the reader, although relying on preloading could put a major strain on a mobile user’s data plan. “This kind of navigation would be really cool on a mobile device. Just clicking “next, previous,” would be a stumble upon like experience, but then with relevant content: your own RSS feeds,” he said. Sounds like something that would be fun on an iPad.

Stripped down RSS readers are extremely useful. But the appeal of something like prldr underscores, yet again, the importance of visual design.

You can sign up or try the demo here. What do you think? Do you like your feeds pretty, or do you prefer when they show you “just the facts, ma’am”?

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