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Changing the Next Release Focus: Adding support for Manual URL Entry

I've been really excited and chuffed with the feedback Headlines has received to date. It has been really great. People seem to really like it which is great. But I know Headlines isn't perfect and there are some missing features. In particular support for manual entered URLs.

It is funny, because entering URLs manually was one of the major issues I had with existing RSS readers, I can't remember all the RSS URLs I'm interested in and I thought searching would be a great way to resolve this. Of course even the best database of RSS Feeds will still missing someone's favourite RSS Feed.  In addition users who move to Headlines from an existing RSS reader will have a list of the RSS feeds that they use and would like to add to Headlines.


I've had feedback from a number of users and one of their top requests is to add manual URL entry to Headlines. I had originally scheduled this for release 1.3, but have decided, based on this feedback to bring this feature forward to the next release.




Designing the Experience

What is important to a user when entering a URL? We'll based on the second paragraph above the user is probably an advanced user who is familiar with RSS feeds, and understands and knows what a URL is. Even so, some users will stumble across this feature and Headlines should support them.


The Scenarios

I've created two scenarios to try to help me think about the requirements. These are:

  1. Chris starts Headlines he adds the  URL for his favourite feed and is happy and confident that he has he has entered the URL correctly, once added Chris is confident that Headlines is now populated with his favourite feed.


  1. As above however Chris specifies the URL of a website, not of an RSS Feed.


Writing down these scenarios is a great help. They often help raise many following questions.


Question: How is Chris confident that he has entered the URL correctly?

Background: URLs can be long and a single bad character in a URL will stop it from working, it is important that Headlines gives some feedback to Chris that the URL is valid.

Answer: The following things should occur to provide Chris with the feedback he needs:

  • The URL once entered should remain visible during the process of adding the feed
  • Headlines should provide Chris with information on the process of adding the URL including
    • The server could not be found
    • The feed was not found on the server
    • URL is not a feed (parsing error)
    • The URL was a web page
      • The web page did not contain a feed
      • The web page contains more than one rss feed


Question: How is Chris confident that Headlines is now populated with his favourite feed?


  • The feed appears with the same title he has seen in his other RSS reader
  • The description of the feed matches his expectations
  • The feed appears with a set of stories he is expecting


The next step - defining the user story

Now that I've outlined the requirements from a user point of view the next stage is to work out how to implement them. To do this I'll need to create a user story or use case which illustrates how a user will walk through the process of adding a URL to Headlines. Anything I do create must fulfil as many of the requirements outlined above as possible.

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