Everyone agrees that WordPress is a great blogging platform. Everyone also agrees that if there is one thing that needs to change, it’s the default commenting system that comes bundled with WordPress. The Web is evolving quickly and new approaches to building websites, such as the use of AJAX, have changed the expectations of users. The default WordPress commenting system isn’t bad, but neither has it kept right up with all the latest web dev trends….
Your commenting system is a very valuable part of your site, with the ability to make or break visitor engagement since this is where discussions are created and thrive. If you are serious about taking your blog to the next level, then please keep reading. We are going to preview a couple of options that you can deploy to potentially improve the appearance, value and quality of your commenting system.
If you are looking for a social commenting system that keeps track of your conversations on posts, then Livefyre may just be what you need. If you have an active social presence and want to pull your comments and conversations from Twitter and Facebook into your website, Livefyre’s ability to increase engagement via social connections makes it a superior system to the default WP commenting system.
Livefyre’s real-time commenting system actually brings genuine conversation right to your blog. Compare this with the typical commenting, waiting for a reply and then a response approach, and you get a better and more agile system with Livefyre than what you have on WP.
The moderation system is also pretty sleek. It allows the admin to moderate comments much more simply and even makes it possible to add notes explaining why the comment was moderated for fellow admins to see. If your blog contains too many comments, there is a community flagging feature and the ability to specify certain commenters as official moderators, rather than having to hand out WP privileges just for moderating comments.
If you are looking for a system that is more familiar, then Disqus may be a good option. Though similar in social features to other commenting systems, the system differentiates itself by incorporating a ranking system that allows commenters to vote for favorite posts. Disqus uses Akismet, hence certain similarities with the default WP system, but this in no way makes it any less superior to other third-party commenting systems.
The fact that the comments do not reside on your blog allows Disqus to be highly customizable. Disqus doesn’t hold your comments hostage. If, for some reason, you need to export your comments, Disqus supports this ability by allowing you to both export and re-import them into either a blog running on Disqus or using another commenting system. If you plan to upgrade and use Disqus, there are also import tools to help you with migrating your comments into Disqus.
My favorite Disqus feature is the ability for users to comment using the common authentication systems like Facebook, Google, Twitter and OpenID. Disqus also enhances commenting by automatically threading discussions. If you prefer to receive email notifications of posts, Disqus allows you to reply to the email and have your reply added to the comment thread associated with your email address. This is a great time saver, especially when you are on a mobile device.
A commenting system that is even closer to home than Disqus is IntenseDebate. Right from the start, you can tell there is a high level of integration between the default WP system and IntenseDebate. It stands to reason as the product is made by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.
The system lets you choose how comments are managed. You have the option of either selecting the IntenseDebate comment template or sticking with the default WP comment style. It supports common authentication systems and allows linked images to be displayed. When typing, the text area expands accordingly, which encourages longer posts.
In reality, IntenseDebate does not entirely replace WP’s own commenting system, but simply augments it. While the interface is definitely sleeker that the default, you have the option of reverting back to the default anytime you feel like.
IntenseDebate’s reputation-scoring system allows thumbs-up and thumbs-down votes. Over time, people with a certain minimum reputation score can have their comments automatically approved thereby simplifying the work of the moderators.
Facebook Comments for WP
The Facebook commenting system is used on many highly-trafficked blogs today. If you have been to a website that allowed you to leave a comment using your Facebook account, then you have a pretty good idea how it works. The Facebook commenting system is available onto your WP blog using this plugin. If a reader is already logged into Facebook, they can leave a comment without having to authenticate themselves. The system allows users the option of whether to make their comment visible onto their Facebook profile while allowing them to see all their posts in a chronological order. Facebook notifications can also be activated to alert you whenever a comment is posted.
The above third-party commenting systems are all relatively easy to set up, enable and simplify comments portability and support fall-back to your native blog’s commenting system.
For the WP purist, the standard default WP commenting system works just fine. For these die-hards, there are many other plugins and options available that can enhance the standard WP comment functionality and give it a new look.
One of the best ways to enhance your WP comment section is to encourage commenting in the first place. As with everything else, there are many plugins to help you do just that:
BlogFollow – This displays a snippet of the commenter’s blog at the bottom of each comment they post, thus encouraging their participation.
AuthorHighlight – This is a great plugin to have in any blog. It highlights all your comments if you are the blog’s author.
TinyMCEComments – Ever wanted to edit your comments with various styles? This plugin turns the comment box into a full-featured rich text editor allowing people to make their comments appear exactly how they would like them to look.
Obviously there are many other great plugins and systems out there used by various websites and that work for specific niches. If you have a favorite plugin you find works really well please share it in the comments.