CROWDSOURCE DESIGN UPDATE: You’re all doing a fabulous job deciding how this blog should look and behave. It’s been a great experience, even when I make a total mess of things or break the site. There’s a little time left to comment about the $2000 Web Design Giveaway entry rules, so I’m going to wait to officially announce the giveaway until Monday.
I just returned from a lunch meeting with a big client (that’s big as in size of the organization, not size of the actual people, who were all quite petite) where we were brainstorming a new WordPress-based site for the commercial arm of one of their departments. In the hour long meeting, an amazing amount of time was spent discussing the options, benefits and drawbacks of allowing visitors to leave comments, testimonials, and ask questions that would be visible to everyone else on the interweb.
Now, granted, this organization has an onion-like structure of brand management and risk management and brand risk management (okay, I made that last one up) that exceeds anything that most of us everyday blogging types ever encounter. But the argument is still just as important to us.
Why? Comments are how we know visitors to our blogs are more than just accidental arrivals via Google. They are proof that someone out there was compelled to start a conversation with your content. And, frankly, they are what motivate me to keep blogging—without that feedback, encouragement, and occasional chiding, I would probably have stopped blogging a long time ago.
From a business perspective, they are crucial bits of information about your audience demographic, powerful evidence of your influence when seeking sponsors and advertisers, and often serve as a very candid evaluative method to determine the success (or failure) of your blog.
What role do comments play in your blog? Do you leave room for commentary in your posts, or do you wrap up each entry so neatly that no one wants to muss up the packaging? What have you learned from comments received on your blog?
From a strategic design perspective, comments are complicated, because comment forms open up your site to spammers and flamers (the angry kind, not necessarily the homosexual kind). Comment moderation, where the author must approve every comment, slows dialogue. CAPTCHA codes (those wacky letters and numbers that verify you’re human) and registration requirements stop spammers, but add baggage to the process.
Some argue that each added layer of security, each step someone must take to comment, decreases the odds that actual readers will make a comment. Others say good fences make good neighbors. Many professional bloggers and websites have established comment moderation policies that clearly define what’s okay and what’s not.
So, today I have two quick Blog Salad design questions:
What do you think? What’s okay to delete, to block, and what should be fair game? Is commenting a first amendment right?