Asking your visitors to comment on your site

I completed a Home-Start site this week for Home-Start Bracknell Forest. One of the requests for content was quite unusual compared to the 100+ other charity sites that I have built over the past 3 years.

This group had an old site that I replaced. I was asked to add a feedback page, so they could gather comments from those people that came past the website on their views about the website.

I have used a function that is built into all WordPress websites where you can invite comments on articles (posts and pages). I have turned it on at the bottom of this page so you can see an example and make a comment. You can do this on your site as well (and turn it off again).  But you need to be aware of what might happen.

Catering for the Bots

A growing problem is Form Blasting. This seems to be a relatively new tool in the world of the hackers and fringe groups who use computers to post adverts and links into forms. I have seen several examples over the past month where those that use Form Blasting advertise the fact in one of the forms that is submitted from your website. You pay say £150 and they will place your advert for knock off Gucci bags on 10,000 websites.

These are computer generated messages, they generally come up with some form of random text, they all carry a link to somewhere. One of the reasons they do this is they assume that their message will be posted in a form on your site and then be instantly visible to all visitors.

In your case it is possible with a little care to make sure any comments submitted on your site are passed to a Moderation Queue. Only when you have reviewed them do you decide whether to make them public or not. You will see three categories of comments:

  • Genuine people provide you with feedback (this is what you are hoping for)
  • Computers posting spam messages (you don’t want this).
  • Anonymous people with nothing better to do than post some obscene or totally off topic comments (you don’t want this).

In the first category there may be three types of feedback.

  • One that is wholly constructive and also positive. In this case you may wish to publish it.
  • One that is wholly constructive but negative. Depending on how it is worded you may wish to publish this too. It may encourage other counter opinions.
  • One that is not constructive and negative. Generally abusive, and usually from someone with an axe to grind for some reason. – You delete these.

The key point here is that you are moderating what eventually becomes visible on your website. You remain in control.

Sometimes it takes a while

On a village association website I am involved with, we added comment forms on all new content and expected people to sign up to the site first before they could add a comment. This did not work. Eventually we decided to allow people to comment without any form of registration on the site. We anticipated a deluge of comments that we would need to wade through. It did not happen that way. It has taken around 12 months before we started to see some comments coming in on articles.

Our audience in this case (2000 visits a month) were all UK based and a little cautious at adding their views to articles, possibly because they live in a community of 2600 homes, so if they were honest, and put there details in, other local people could instantly see who they were. So do not expect things to happen over night, but it is worth giving it a try, but you do need to be patient.

How to enable comments

Adding some protection

Firstly add a new plugin to your site by going to Plugins and enter “anti spam” in the search box. Locate and install Anti-Spam from webvitality. This will stop computer generated spam messages from being posted in the comment area on your site.

Enable the plugin after it has been installed.

Selectively turn on comments

There are several steps to this, for the majority of you, I have stopped comments from being automatically enabled. So you need to reverse these steps.

I am going to assume that you want to select where you want comments rather than apply it globally on all new content.

Step 1. Log into your site, on the dashboard select Settings and then select Discussion

Step 2. Firstly uncheck everything on this page, this ensures we are all starting from the same position. Then check the following boxes:

  • A comment is held for moderation

Making these settings ensures that any comments made are held from the public and are moderated (reviewed) and then manually approved, and you also collect their email address and name (of course they might put Micky Mouse in there and mickey@disneyland.com!)

Step 3. Go to the Page or Post (News article) you want to enable this on. Open it in the editor view.

Step 4. In the top right of your screen it says Screen Options, Click on the small inverted triangle and a panel will appear at the top of your screen with some options.

Step 5. Check the boxes which are called Discussion and Comments (there may only be one option visible). Then go back to the screen options inverted triangle again and click it. The option settings will slide back up out of view on your screen.

Step 6. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. This is below the editing area. You will see an option has appeared called Discussion.  Check the box which says: Allow Comments.

Step 7.  Complete the post or page you are working on. Add some text at the bottom to indicate that you are inviting comments on the item.

Cautionary notes

The style of the images below are determined by the template used on your site. Yours may be different, don’t worry about it, we are using features built into all wordpress sites.

If you have done this on a page, then the comments box will be visible. You can move to the next step.

If you have done this on a post and the viewer sees your post on the news page, the comments box will not be obviously visible until the Post item is selected and opened up. Users can do this by clicking on the title of the post item. Or by clicking on the link at the bottom of the post which says: Leave a comment as in the example below

example post

If you invite your viewer to click on the title of the post (news item) it will expand and look similar to the example below. Here it is obvious where to leave the comment. i mention this because it may be helpful to add to your guidance text depending on what type of content you have created; Page or Post.

examplePost2

Testing

(always test something before you leave your site).

Just to check we are in sync, publish your page or post. Log out of the site and then view it in your browser. Now you are seeing what a user sees. So the fact that you have an admin account on your site is not impacting the next few steps.

Locate the article you have enabled comments on.

You should be able to see that there is a link called “leave a comment” at the bottom of the item, or a comments box is clearly visible.

Enter your details into the comment box, this should require your email address and name. Then write a comment, then click on the post comment button/ icon.

If this has worked then you will see your comment under the article indicating that it has been accepted but it is in a moderation queue. This means nobody else can see it apart from you. (You can verify this by opening a different browser and going to the same page, it will not be visible).

Checking the moderation queue

Log into the site and check the dashboard page. This will tell you if there are any comments waiting to be approved.

dashboard view

In the case above there is one comment in the queue. To view it click on the link “1 comment”. Or identify the menu item in the side bar called Comments and open that.

You will see a list of the comments and their status. For any comment move your cursor to the Comment area and you will see some options appear underneath. Here you can review them by opening them, approve them, trash/bin them. When you choose to approve them the comment then becomes visible under your article.

Stopping Comments

To reverse the process open the article (Post or Page) in the editor, go to the bottom of the page (scroll right the way down to bottom of your screen). Uncheck the Comments check box. This will stop any new ones from appearing and hide the rest of them.

Equally if it was a temporary information gathering exercise then you can delete the page or post if you have got what you wanted out of it. Or unpublish it by making the item a Draft vs Published document.

Email notifications of Comments

For all of my sites, with only a few exceptions I am the principal email address on the site. Any admin/ security messages that come from the site (warnings about hackers attempting to enter the site, pages being modified, admins logging in etc) are sent to my email address. I delete them when I see them unless I think the activity is suspicious and then I may contact you.

The email address recorded in the dashboard menu item called Settings, General is where you will likely find my email address. You can add yours there too (add a comma between the addresses), but you will receive all of the messages I get from your site which may be a bit too much for you, and can be quite alarming if you do not know what they all mean! The advantage of adding your email address there is that any messages posted on your site will generate an email from the site to the email address(es) in that box. Then you know to login into your site to check what has been said.

Alternatively, just dip in say once a week, and check the comments page.

Hopefully that is all clear. If not, or you run into issues contact me and I will see if I can help.

 

 

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