One out of many sure-fire ways to avoid blog comments

ranting on idiotic comment form designsIf your name is John Doe and you don’t blog this rant is not for you, because you don’t suffer from truncated form field values. Otherwise check here whether you annoy comment authors on your blog or not. “Annoy” is the polite version by the way, I’m pissed on 99% of the blogs I read. It took me years to write about this issue eventually. Today I had enough.

Look at this form designed especially for John Doe (john@doe.com) at http://doe.com/, then duplicated onto all blogs out there, and imagine you’re me going to comment on a great post:

I can’t view what I’ve typed in, and even my browser’s suggested values are truncated because the input field is way too narrow. Sometimes I leave post-URLs with a comment, so when I type in the first characters of my URL, I get a long list of shortened entries from which I can’t select anything. When I’m in a bad mood I swear and surf on without commenting.

I’ve looked at a fair amount of WordPress templates recently, and I admit that crappy comment forms are a minor issue with regard to the amount of duplicated hogwash most theme designers steal from each other. However, I’m sick of crappy form usability, so I’ve changed my comment form today:

Now the input fields should display the complete input values in most cases. My content column is 500 pixels wide, so size="42" leaves enough space when a visitor surfs with bigger fonts enlarging the labels. If with very long email addresses or URLs that’s not enough, I’ve added title attributes and onchange triggers which display the new value as tooltip when the visitors navigates to the next input field. Also I’ve maxed out the width of the text area. I hope this 60 seconds hack improves the usability of my comment form.

When do you fire up your editor and FTP client to make your comment form convenient? Even tiny enhancements can make your visitors happier.



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29 Comments to "One out of many sure-fire ways to avoid blog comments"

  1. DazzlinDonna on 24 September, 2007  #link

    I admit that this has annoyed me in the past. One question:

    Will this change need to be re-changed every time WP is upgraded?

    I’ll be happy to lengthen mine if not.

  2. DazzlinDonna on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Doh! Never mind. Of course, it’d just be changes to the theme, so no updates would be necessary. Silly me. Wasn’t thinking. :)

  3. Sebastian on 24 September, 2007  #link

    My bad Donna. I didn’t mention the script path /wp-content/themes/yourtheme/comments.php

  4. DazzlinDonna on 24 September, 2007  #link

    I just changed both my SEO Scoop and DazzlinDonna blogs to accomodate the longer fields. Great idea.

  5. Sebastian on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Thanks Donna! I hope everybody will follow you. :)

  6. JLH on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Neat idea. I’d say feedburner is letting you down more than your comment form. I get your comments feed right away, but the new posts feed lags by several hours.

  7. Sebastian on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Doh! I even ping feedburner. :( I’ve checked the feed at feedburner.com a few minutes after publishing this post, and it appeared. Google’s reader doesn’t list it yet, not even on refresh. It seems Google’s feedfetcher reads it once a day or so, despite a ton of subscribers. Weird … Google, can you hear my pings?

  8. Zachary Fox on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Good idea. More work for me to tackle tonight.

    In fact, your new comment form is so appealing, I just had to leave this comment.

  9. Andy Beard on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Good idea to make it a little wide, though I do have some extra stuff inside my comment area.

    The worst possible however is Wordpress.com, who have optimized their databases and forms such that they don’t allow you to input deep links.

    That royally ^&*^^% me off, because adding a link to the comments almost universally ends up with a comment that someone has to moderate. Akismet hates me.

  10. Adam on 24 September, 2007  #link

    That made very little sense until I looked at the original article.

    Good point (ish), the only part that I’d say irks me is the urls. Firefox usually remembers a ton and normally a couple for the one I want to use so I have to choose one randomly and then go and check it was what I wanted.

  11. Jon Kelly on 24 September, 2007  #link

    I like that one enough to warrant a comment, too. Look for longer fields on our blog soon, too.

  12. Michael Dorausch on 24 September, 2007  #link

    Was not going to leave a comment but there was sooo much room in the fields I just had to try it out.

    Very nice Sebastian.

  13. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Thanks guys :)
    Andy, on my blog you can use A elements within the text, I’ll approve comments when I spot the email. Maybe Akismet has a problem with your .eu domain, I often wonder why it catches good comments and I’ve unspammed at least one of yours. As for WP, the length of the input fields is a template issue, it’s safe to lengthen them. Also adding a title attribute is safe, but check for the existence of an onchange trigger. If you have one, then just add the code above to its statements.

    Adam, I have this problem with email addresses too. I don’t know how I managed to submit a comment with extra characters added to the TLD somewhere, but now I’ve to choose from a list suggesting “…@….com”, “…@….comm” etcetera and on most blogs the values get truncated at the first “m” of “com”. :(

  14. Ben Clapton on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Found this on stubleupon, and agree wholeheartedly. It’s one of the things I missed when I was designing my website, and it has been changed now. I think it’s something that most people would miss because you’re usually logged in, and hence don’t see the input fields when viewing your template.

  15. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Ben, that’s a good point. Most bloggers never view it like a reader. I had to fire up IE to view the results of my edits.

  16. SexySEO on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Pretty little thing :)

  17. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Yep, too sad blogger doesn’t allow edits in the comment form. :(

  18. Rob on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Nice idea, it’s not until you see things like this that you realise how a little bit of thought can benefit all. Happy mediums are where its at. I guess that for some designers a small little cutesy form is what *they* want, they don’t really think or care about how others might interact with it, so long as it works and their design looks just so.I think I’ll do similar when I get back later.

  19. Derek on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Great tip - I’ve updated my blog to include wider form fields as a result. I’ll have to look with IE but using FF the tooltip seems to be truncated as well. Have you seen that as well?

  20. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Derek, I’ve seen that and perhaps this bug gets fixed one day. To learn more please read the amusing Bugzilla bug report page about tooltips and title attributes, it’s really hilarious.

  21. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Exactly Rob, designers as well as developers lack a build-in wide-angle lens. ;)

    As for your subtle hint in your link, I’m a fundamentalist when it comes to opt-in. Also, I hate it when someone decides for me, so I’ll leave the email subscription thingy unchecked (despite the good arguments in your post and its comments). :) By the way, your comment form proves that you thought hard about its usability, but the huge load of small explanatory text is overwhelming (I prefer KISS, e.g. help links to footnotes, over comprehensive information on forms, but that’s just me).

  22. Derek on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Sebastian, thanks for pointing me to that bug report. Some of those comments were hilarious as you had people offering to put a bounty on the bug fix. Good stuff!

  23. lucia on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Hi Sebastian, I had to dash off to my blog to figure out if my fields were wide! I’m always logged in as admin, so I didn’t actually know. I was relieved to discover, I had nice wide entry boxes. :)

  24. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Derek, glad you enjoyed it.

    Lucia, luckily you picked a template from a sane designer.

  25. Jason Litka on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Good stuff. It made me go back and check over my own site. It looks like the theme I use (K2) already has those boxes enlarged but it’s good advice none the less and I’ll be looking through the apps I’ve written at work for similar issues.

  26. Sebastian on 25 September, 2007  #link

    Thanks for your support Jason. Links in coments are definitely not worthless from an SEO standpoint. Dofollowing links provided by comment authors is also a sign of respect.

  27. Size Matters to Blog Readers on 5 October, 2007  #link

    […] a blog with one of the most peculiar names on the web - Sebastian`s Pamphlets - has come up with a simple fix for your blog theme, that should help improve matters for those […]

  28. unTECHy on 8 October, 2007  #link

    Great post. It is such a simple idea but it has so much value-add to it.

    Maybe WP should change this by default. Would save alot of hassle.

  29. Günter Zöchbauer on 7 January, 2008  #link

    I frequently swore and left, not only on blog comment forms but registration forms and such with tiny input fields.

    But recently (german) I stumbled upon this Firefox Add-on Resizable Text Area

    If you wont change your comment form you may at least leave a link to this Add-on ;-)

    Nice post - I’m happy to see that I’m not alone with my annoyance.

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