It’s a relatively simple process to add some flair to your blog comments these days. I want to look at 6 of the best free tools and give you a quick overview of the benefits of each.
Let’s start with one you’ve likely heard of before…
- Real-time Comments – New comments appear on the page without needing to refresh. Not a major benefit for smaller sites, but very good if your posts tend to get a flurry of comments in the first few hours of publishing.
- Social Media Integration – Users can comment via Facebook or Twitter, and share to those sites as well if they choose.
- Global Profiles – A user’s Disqus profile shows their comments across all Disqus sites. The idea is that a Disqus user will be more likely to comment on a Disqus blog because of this, and it makes for a fast way to find out more about a commenter.
- Plenty of other features, like inline comment replies or “subscribe to updates.”
Another good thing to bear in mind with Disqus is that they are very active. Disqus has been around for several years now, and it still innovates and updates regularly. They even have a mystery Disqus 2012 project to be released soon.
And incase you’re wondering, your comments can all be imported to Disqus, and exported back to WordPress if you choose to leave Disqus. You won’t be hostage to their system.
Livefyre is very similar to Disqus, and as far as I can tell, they offer almost exactly the same feature set. Real-time comments, social media, user profiles, subscription etc. are all included as standard.
Livefyre is a newer contender in this market though, but personally I think they have an edge over Disqus in 2 ways:
- Sleeker Design – This is just a matter of taste, but I like the softer design of Livefyre’s comments more. It’s not a big difference, but every little helps, and even their website has a better design.
IntenseDebate is similar again to the 2 above (The last tool in this style, I promise!). The reason I mention it is because it has one very big draw for WordPress users; it’s owned by Automattic, the creators of WordPress.
The feature-set is generally quite similar to the others (Though real-time commenting is noticeably absent), and their design is very similar as well.
Whilst there is nothing that I can say is “wrong” with IntenseDebate, it’s hard to recommend them overly either. Their site and script don’t feel as sleek as Livefyre, and their community no longer seems as vibrant as Disqus’.
Oh, and the bright green “180p” badges look awful… (Look down the sidebar of their blog to see what I mean).
The Facebook Comments script is exactly what you would expect; it replaces your own comments with a Facebook wall. Users must be signed in to their Facebook accounts, and then what they see is identical to Facebook.com.
There are two big advantages to this approach:
- Publicity – Users are commenting with their Facebook profiles, so with a little luck, their friends will see the comment and look at your article as well.
- Anti-spam – Every commenter must use their Facebook account, so spammers have a much harder time bulk-spamming blogs.
The strongest feature is also the strongest drawback. Some people (like me) keep their accounts completely separate to their work or online profiles, and so, you will miss out on those people’s contributions.
There is a plugin for adding these comments to WordPress, but it seems to be broken with WordPress 3.3. For a developer though, the installation is similar to any other Facebook script. You can get the code here.
(If you have trouble with the install or can’t find a reliable guide online, let me know and I’ll put together a walkthrough).
Jetpack is essentially a set of WordPress plugins, which is a topic I’m about to cover in the final section. What sets Jetpack apart is its ease of use. You install one package, and cherry pick the features for you want.
In the case of commenting, that means 3 things:
- Subscriptions – Users can be emailed when follow-up comments are left after their reply. This is a great way to keep conversations going.
- Gravatar Hovercards – When you mouse over a commenter’s name, this will pull up a little bubble with their image and a quick bio with a link to their full profile on Gravatar.
- Sharing – Jetpack makes it easy to add social media sharing links anywhere on your page, including around the comments area.
Other WordPress Plugins
There are hundreds out there, but I want to focus on just 4 of them:
- AJAX Edit Comments – This allows users to edit their comments for up to 15 minutes after submitting them. It is a good way to enable users to fix typos, and avoid “double-posting” if they want to add another line. It is particularly popular on coding blogs, where awesome commenters might contribute code snippets of their own but find they get messed up when displayed.
- CommentLuv – CommentLuv gets the latest blog post from a commenter’s RSS feed, and automatically adds a link to it after their comment. This is a great way to thank visitors for taking the time to post a comment.
- GD Star Rating – Not the simplest of plugins to configure, but GD Star Rating has a wealth of options that can enable star ratings (Or thumbs) on WordPress comments (And posts).
- WordPress reCAPTCHA – Spam can be a nightmare on WordPress blogs, but this plugin makes it simple to add Google’s captcha (“Type the letters…”) tool to your blog.
Which Do You Use?
I’ve always used regular WordPress comments with some plugins here on Pro Blog Design, because I like the flexibility of creating your own comments design. The topic of this blog is another reason; it’s good for us to show something unique.
More and more though, I’m working with clients who are choosing the scripts above (Particularly Disqus and Livefyre). These scripts are very impressive, and can even be a good way to speed up the development time of a new site.
I think the Facebook widget is only a great bet if you specifically try to encourage users to interact with you via Facebook (e.g. your site takes signups via Facebook Connect, or you need as much social sharing of your app as possible etc.).
I’d love to hear what approach you’ve taken on your site, and why you went down that road!