So you’ve built (or are building) a WordPress site and want to allow people to comment on your posts. That’s all there is to it, right?
Not necessarily. WordPress comments work great out of the box, but a number of other options also exist. Each has pros and cons, so we’ll weigh them out here to help you decide which option is best for you.
The built-in WordPress comments system
WordPress includes a feature to allow comments on posts and includes a moderation system for removing comments.
It’s easy for everyone. The default WordPress comment system is a nice option primarily because it’s the easiest option. There’s really nothing you have to do to set it up. It’s also easy for your users as they only have to enter their name and an email address — no password is required.
Seamless integration. Since it’s a built-in part of WordPress, it functions with other tools in WordPress better than other options can. The Comments section of the Dashboard allows you to manage comments. Plugins like Akismet can block spammers, and you’ll want to be sure to set that up. You can manage comments from the WordPress mobile app as well.
Complicated authentication. WordPress offers several options for authentication, but all of them have glaring weaknesses. You can opt to require users to create an account on your site, but then users must remember a separate username and password only for your site. Many potential commenters may deem this process less than worthwhile. If you don’t require users to create an account, however, any name and email combination will work, meaning users can make up fake names and email addresses. This allows them to comment somewhat anonymously, which can lead to trolling. Akismet, as good as it is at blocking spam, doesn’t prevent trollers from leaving negative or hateful comments on your site. You can always set up your comments to require a moderator to approve a user’s first comment or you can even do this for all comments, but that creates much more administrative work for you.
Lack of feedback. While other commenting systems provide features such as up-voting, down-voting, or liking comments, WordPress does not. This feedback is helpful as it encourages user participation and can also be used to rank comments in order of perceived value.
Disqus is a third-party commenting system. It is used by quite a few major sites, including ABC News and TMZ. When users create an account with Disqus, they can see every comment they’ve made on any Disqus-enabled site.
It’s widely used. Because of its popularity, the Disqus interface will likely be familiar to many of your readers. There’s also a good chance they’ll have already created an account with Disqus before, so they won’t need to have a separate username and password to log into your site. Users can also log in with a Facebook or Twitter account if you choose to let them.
Easy setup. Disqus has a fairly simple process to add Disqus to your site. It’s obviously more complicated than using the WordPress built-in commenting system, but it’s simpler to install than many other third-party commenting systems.
Robust moderation tools. Disqus provides spam controls, blacklists (to ban trolls and other unwanted users), and word filters. This simplifies moderation and makes things simpler for you.
It offers advertising. If you’re looking for an easy way to make some money off your site, Disqus can also serve ads to your readers.
It’s not as easy for users. For technologically savvy users, logging into Disqus is simple, and as previously stated, many users will likely already have a Disqus account. However, some users may not want to fool with creating a separate login for Disqus. Less tech-savvy users may not remember their Disqus password or even realize that the account they created on another site is the same one your site is requesting, and some may not trust Disqus with their social media account information. When one blogger asked his users what they thought of Disqus, he received enough negative feedback to convince him to ditch it.
Compatibility problems with mobile apps. Disqus loads a separate page for users to log in. In a browser, this loads in a new tab, and once the login is complete, the tab closes. However, when a page using Disqus loads in a mobile app that doesn’t use tabs – like the Facebook app – it can’t load the page in a new tab. Instead, it loads in the same one, and once authentication is complete, it doesn’t reload the page the login request came from. This might sound like a complicated explanation, but essentially what happens in a mobile app is Disqus pulls a user away from your site and doesn’t provide an obvious way to get back. This could lead someone to get frustrated and close the page entirely, never coming back to leave a comment.
Spam. Recently, Disqus has seen a strong uptake in the amount of spam comments it receives. Because Disqus is widely used and a login is universal to any site that uses it, it’s a prime target for spammers. While they have a robust spam management system, it’s become a cat-and-mouse game between Disqus and spammers.
Facebook makes its like-and-comment system available to other websites.
It’s very simple for users. Facebook has over 1 billion active users. Any of those users can comment on your site and won’t even need to log in if they’re logged into Facebook. If they’re not logged in, logging in is a simple process and users will likely know their username and password because Facebook is so ubiquitous.
Strong authentication. Users could create a fake Facebook profile to comment on your site, but because it’s easy to block people from being able to comment, trolling should be kept to a minimum.
A Facebook account is required. As crazy as it sounds, even with 1 billion active users, not everyone is on Facebook. If your site is geared toward a younger demographic — especially teenagers — some of your users may not be on Facebook and therefore won’t be able to participate.
Setup is incredibly complicated. Adding Facebook comments to a site is far more complicated than any other commenting system mentioned here. A plugin designed to simplify the process makes it less daunting, but even with the plugin, the process is complex. Update: Unfortunately this plugin has been discontinued, although it still works for users who have it installed on their sites.
As you can likely tell, each commenting system comes with a trade-off. The easiest option to manage is perhaps worst for your users, and vice versa. We’ve decided to use Facebook comments for MPWR Design, but we freely admit that it’s not a perfect solution.
Let us know in the comments: Which solution works best for you?