Six Ways to Tell Your Readers Apart Through Comments

When readers leave a comment on your site, the reader is momentarily focused completely on you, be it your thoughts, your words, or something else. Do your readers a favor, and provide some focus back on them.

With the launch of the new design, I had a chance to re-examine the comment section. I chose to more-or-less keep the comment section the same, however I made an effort to provide some special emphasis on allowing the readers to stand out.

Here are several techniques I explored for allowing a reader’s comment to stand out more:

A Prominent Avatar

Avatars using WordPress 2.5
Comment Avatars

A prominent avatar is probably the best way to tell readers apart. We use Gravatars here, and if you have one, it’s a great way to set yourself apart as a commenter.

I decided to allow the full 80×80 Gravatar to show in all its glory to allow the other readers to be able to quickly distinguish between commenters based on the avatar.

The Commenter’s Name and URL

Unique Comment Name and URL

I’m going to pick on Michael from Pro Blog Design in this example, simply because Michael is a common name.

Showing a commenter’s name as well as a URL is another way to help distinguish between commenters. Many commenters might have the same name such as Mark, Nathan, or James, but there is typically only one URL to each of those names.

For example, Michael is from Pro Blog Design. Combine that with his name and his avatar, and one can quickly tell him apart from any other Michael.

We also allow commenters to put keywords in their name to further tell them apart. For example: Sue @ TameBay. There are very likely many people named Sue, but only one from TameBay.

Too Many Sues
Too Many Sue’s

Allowing Blog Signatures

Many bloggers I know frown on having blog signatures in comments, but it’s a great way to tell readers apart. Unfortunately, many view signatures in comments as spam.

One WordPress plugin I have seen to try to change this mentality is called Comment Luv. The plugin inserts the latest post a commenter wrote into his or her comment

I personally chose not to install Comment Luv here because it modifies the original comment. I’d really rather have something that kept the signature and the original comment separate. I’m still looking for a good solution short of writing my own.

Color Code or Rank Commenters

Some techniques I’ve seen on the web, such as on WeblogToolsCollection, shows how many comments a person has left.

number_of_comments.jpeg

The above technique uses a modified version of Lucia’s Linky Love WordPress Plugin. The number of comments showing is a great way for other readers to see how prominent a particular commenter is on a site.

One can easily take this concept and develop specific colors to make a ranking system based on the number of comments.

Display a Featured Comment

One other thing you can do is display a featured comment. An example of a featured comment is a comment shown much more prominently than the others. To see an example of this, please visit this post over at theDailyWTF.

Featured comments are shown up front, and then you can browse to view the rest of the comments.

You can also opt to show a featured comment in a prominent location elsewhere such as the front page of your website.

I chose not to utilize this technique simply because of the lack of tools, but it may be my next project to write a WordPress plugin that can tackle featured comments elegantly.

Display Top Commenters

It seems many blogs have a widget on their sidebar that shows the top commenters. This is a good way to incentivize people to comment more, but may also result in less quality comments.

I chose not to implement Top Commenters here simply because I couldn’t find the room in the design, and also wanted to incentivize quality comments over quantity. And, of course, not everyone likes the concept of top commenters.

Conclusion

Within this post I mentioned six ways to tell your readers apart through comments. They were:

  1. Display a Prominent Avatar
  2. Show a Commenter’s Name and URL
  3. Allow Blog Signatures
  4. Color Code or Rank Commenters
  5. Display a Featured Comment
  6. Show Top Commenters

Can you share some other ways to tell commenters apart?

About William

William lives in Oakley, California and is an avid tech enthusiast. When he's not writing about online social networking and businesses, he is busy reviewing how social media affects us all.

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