WordPress Comments: Picking the Right System for You

Speech bubbleIn a way, comments define blogging and the whole web 2.0 “movement”. From a personal perspective they represented my first victories in blogging. As a beginner blogger, each new comment I received was like a little thumbs up for my amateurish efforts.

So it’s fair to say that I have a soft spot for comments — although my blog tends to get quite a few these days, I still appreciate the input of my readers as much as I ever did and reply to the vast majority of them.

For many months I tried to figure out what was the best comments system for me — I even switched to from one system to another then back again. But these days I have my comments system nicely attuned to my needs — from the front end interface to the backend moderation. With that in mind, today I’d like to share the various options available to you so that you are appropriately equipped to make the right decision.

The Front End

What readers see is most important, and given the myriad options out there, you will need to give some thought to what suits your readers best.

In broad terms you have two options — the default WordPress comments system or a third party application. It is all too easy to get tangled up in the pros and cons between the two options and even easier to get tangled up between the various third party options. Let’s take a look at the most important factors.

Default WordPress Comments System

WordPress comes complete with a very capable comments system. It is basic, fast and intuitive — and for a lot of people is all they’ll ever want. Not only that but it is highly customizable via plugins such as Comment Reply Notification and Newsletter Sign-Up.

On the other hand it is vulnerable to spamming (there is no foolproof spam solution) and some consider it rather uninspiring. You can of course spice it up in whatever way you see fit with CSS, but some people don’t want to get their hands dirty (which is fair enough).

Third Party Options

LivefyreAlthough there are a number of third party comments systems available for WordPress I am primarily talking about Livefyre, Disqus, Facebook Comments, and WPMU DEV’s own Comments Plus.

These systems are characterized by flashy user interfaces and advanced features. Further, social media integration is a great selling point, especially in the case of Facebook Comments (where readers’ comments are displayed on their own profiles for great exposure).

The cons are that these systems are typically more resource intensive, less customizable, and don’t offer the easy moderation options available in the default system.

Ultimately there is no “best” system — it a case of finding the right fit for you. Personally, the default system suits me down to a tee. I did move to the Livefyre system for a while but found its additional features to be more of a nuisance than a benefit.

The Back End

One genuine consideration when choosing a plugin system is the ease with which you can moderate comments. Trust me — once you start getting more than a handful of comments you will find an intuitive backend experience of huge benefit.

If you do decide to go with a third party system then you’ll have to rely upon the documentation made available to you, but if you have decided to stick with the default system, I have included an overview of the essentials below.

Notifications and Settings

A number of settings are available to you via Settings > Discussion in your WordPress dashboard’s sidebar:

Discussion Settings

Most of them are pretty self-explanatory but you do get an idea of the wealth of options you have from the screenshot above. A few key pointers:

  • One easy way of preventing spam is to require people to register in order to post comments (but that will reduce the number of comments you receive).
  • Email notifications will get old pretty quickly — instead, I keep an eye on my comments via the meta box on my dashboard.
  • Holding comments for moderation is a real pet hate of mine — you’ll get fed up of it soon enough and commenters will be put off by it.

Moderation

After you have selected your comments system you’ll spent the vast majority of your time reading and responding to them. This is where the default comments system really comes into its own:

Comments moderation

By clicking on the Comments link in your dashboard’s sidebar you will gain access to the comments moderation screen on which all comments are displayed in reverse chronological order (just like the blog posts on your home page). Each comment can be easily read, edited and replied to via a contextual menu that appears when you hover over a specific comment:

Comment

If you want to get really clever you can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly flit between and edit posts. It really is a piece of cake to handle.

Make the Right Decision for Your Blog

The WordPress platform affords you a great deal of choice when it comes to comments. For me the default system is a no brainer but I can certainly see the allure of third party systems — especially if you are running a highly social site.

The key is to fully understand the options available to you and make the best choice for your blog. I hope I have helped you in doing just that with this post. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask them in the comments section below!

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