Comments section is pretty unfortunate as it gets less attention when it comes to blog design. Comments are below the fold and thus don’t get the attention of the visitors that much. This is probably one of the reason why comment styling is often overlooked by bloggers when getting a new WordPress Design for their blog. A WordPress designer will always suggest to style the comments area as we understand that it’s important to entice the user with a good design. Here we will list various practised tips, WordPress plug-ins for making life easier in dealing with comments.
Comment Styling Practices
1. Threaded or Simple view – Threaded comments are great to increase comments. It makes the conversation look better and makes more sense as compared to the chronological display of the comments. On the other hand, chronological display ensures that comments section isn’t abused by the spammers. Many spammers reply to the top most comment even if its not related to the original comment to display their comment with URL on top. Both the options have their benefits and issues, so if you have a community that loves to interact then threaded view should be your choice.
E.g., Freelance Switch displays a neat and clean threaded comments style. It highlights the original author well and displays the reply in a different color, thus separating it nicely from the other commments.
2. Enable Gravatar – Automattic purchased this plug-in and is offering it as a free service. Gravatar means “globally recognized avatar”, which is accessible through your email. It’s a fantastic service, as theme designers can simply integrate gravatar functionality and whenever their users will put their associated email address in comments, their chosen avatar will come automatically. You can enable the gravatar in WordPress using the following tip. Gravatar can slow your web page load time as well, thankfully there is a plug-in that takes care of the issue.
E.g., Matt Brett.com sports a beautiful comment section. Not only it maintains the overall look through the background image, it also displays the avatars just before the author’s name. Avatars not only gives the face to the comment author, various colors in the avatars enhances the looks as well.
3. Highlight the Post Author comments – Comment forms are used by visitors to ask queries from the author of the post. It makes sense that if the author of the post has different styling as compared to the normal comments. It also helps the author themselves from scanning their own comments. Matt Cutts shares the tip to highlight the author comments on WordPress.
Matt Cutts features his comments in blue color as compared to the other comment authors. This keeps him highlighted all the time after all he’s compared with GOD!
4. Background styles, html tags – Speech bubbles, quotation marks, borders, alternate styling, flower petals etc can be used as background to style the comments. It should be in sync with the overall design of the blog and the elements from the theme should be used to make the comments stand out. One can add various other elements like comment permalink, date and time for giving clear picture of when the comment was left.
5. Paginate the comments – Pagination of comments ensures that the blog page doesn’t get too long in case there are more comments. WordPress supports pagination of comments and can be incorporated in the theme by following the documentation.
Useful Comment Plug-ins
1. Akismet – Akismet is a comment spam fighting service from Akismet. It’s available as a plug-in for WordPress and eliminates all the headache, a blogger has to go through because of comment spam.
2. reCAPTCHA – reCAPTCHA is a fantastic spam comment fighting service from Google. It’s used across various popular services like Facebook and is available as WordPress plugin. It’s different from regular captcha plugins because it’s got a purpose to it as well -
reCAPTCHA is a free CAPTCHA service that helps to digitize books, newspapers and old time radio shows. Check out our paper in Science about it.
3. Integrating Facebook comments -This plugin integrates the Facebook commenting system right into your website. If a reader is logged into Facebook while viewing any comment-enabled page or post, they’ll be able to leave a comment using their Facebook profile. Non-Facebook users can post with a valid email address.
4. IntenseDebate, Disqus, Echo – There are various services that offer better comment management. Intensedebate is from Automattic’s stable and faces pretty tough competition from Disqus. Even though, Echo is not so popular I was very impressed with it and hence it deserves a mention. All these services have spam filteration, social networking features, easy styling, ajax support and lots more. In short they are perfect for comment management.
5. CommentLuv – There are various plug-ins that enable do follow comments. However Commentluv plugin adds a new dimension to it as it only pulls out the last post on the comment author’s blog and displays it below the comment. Various tests have proved that after enabling this plugin, the interaction on the blog increases drastically.
Inspiration for Comment Styling on WordPress Blogs
After all the “gyan”, its time for getting inspired from various beautiful comment forms and styles that we found across the blogosphere. So, if you don’t get many comments then you know what should be your next step.