Does Location Matter

A post I wrote for Ubelly (The unofficial official Microsoft blog for developers who love the web)

Here at Ubelly we care passionately about what our community thinks and we’re always considering ways we can hear more from all of you. Recently we’ve been debating whether it matters where comments and feedback are shared.

Traditionally, blogs and websites have looked to drive engagement towards the comment boxes below articles or to their own forums where they can manage and if necessary edit discussion. But, with the rise of social media, we increasingly see people discussing content off-site. This has caused a lot of head scratching as people across the web have tried to figure out if this is a good thing.

Comments below articles are great for two main reasons – everyone can read them without having to put any extra effort in and it gives readers a sense of how everyone else reacted to the piece they just read.

Traditionally these comment systems required registration – which isn’t great, as it creates an extra barrier between the user and them doing what they want. Lately, we’ve seen more and more blogs implement a system which allows users to sign in with their Twitter or Facebook accounts – but if they’re using these platforms as their main source of conversation why should we expect them to come to us? If you build it they will come is a phrase the web design community should be running away from, not towards.

On one level it’s an ego boost – we all like to see a string of comments below our article. On another level it’s sheer laziness, if all the comments are on our blog, we don’t need to spend time looking around for them. There’s also some evidence to suggest comments help boost your SEO ranking – though with Google’s recent changes, it’s hard to tell if this is still the case.

But, none of these are compelling enough reasons to prioritise comments on our own sites. Ultimately, if our content is compelling and worthy of discussion users will join that discussion, regardless of the platform it takes place on.

And if we really want to show off how popular our article is on Twitter, we can always compile the tweets in a Storify so everyone can read them.

As we thought more about this it led us to look at ways to integrate discussion on social media onto the site and that’s why we’ve installed LiveFyre, a comment system which incorporates discussion from Twitter into the comments thread. Is this something you’d like to see more sites do? And how have you handled the comments challenge for projects you’ve been working on?

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