Do you want my two cents here?

Two penniesA client asked why I disabled the comments on a page on her website. Why, indeed?!

“It just doesn’t feel right to me,” didn’t seem like an adequate response. I struggled with it for a little while, and here are my thoughts on the subject.

Have you ever noticed the weekly flyer displayed at the front of a Target store? Would you expect to see comments scribbled on the wall below the ad? Imagine the flyer was posted Monday morning, and these comments were posted by 3 PM:

  • Great price! 🙂
  • This was cheaper at WalMart. FAIL.
  • That was out of stock. Can I get a raincheck?
  • Wow, I love the color of these! Do you have them in small?
  • The toilet in the men’s room is overflowing and my shoes are #@$^ ruined!

Maybe the plumbing problem is patched within 15 minutes and new stock is scheduled to arrive Tuesday morning, but the comments are stuck there until the next week’s specials can be posted.

I see pages on a website like that flyer. As the website owner, you are well within your rights to delete (or not approve) comments at any time.

For those of us who think too much, this could spark an ethical debate: Should you approve (or delete) bad comments? What if a problem were fixed immediately, or a product or service has been discontinued? Are the comments still relevant? Should you delete them?

I would rather avoid the hassle (and the questions).

Blog posts, on the other hand, provide a natural opportunity for discussion. I think of them more like a conversation with someone at the customer service counter. There is a specific context. You may be glad that a painful discussion fades away and loses impact as new posts are added. The reverse can also happen, where the record can turn into a testimonial for your business.

You will note that comments are disabled on pages on my site. I will happily accept comments below.

Sure it’s pretty, but will it do what you need?

If you own a business, your website’s first task is to leave a positive impression on visitors. A very, very close second is to explain how you can help.

An interior designer friend wanted a theme that matched her bubbly, quirky, colorful personality. She found one adorned with doodles, fabric, needlework, buttons, and color that met those criteria beautifully. One day she asked me for some help with her blog.

I pulled up her site. “That’s cute. I like how you called your landing page ‘Hmoe.'” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she replied.

“Look. Your first menu item is spelled ‘H-m-o-e.'”

She looked, then cringed. “Where do I go to change that?”

I skipped through the dashboard to find that she had not misspelled something. I started digging into the theme, and I found several problems.

  • Lack of contrast. This had prompted the initial call for help. The page title didn’t stand out, and the byline was lost in the beautiful but busy background.
  • The main navigation menu was hard-coded into the theme, but the user couldn’t edit the links to the landing page. Hello, 404 error! The designer incorporated common page titles into the theme, probably in an effort to make things “easier” for the user. But what if you only have three pages, or name one something different, or blog in Spanish? The theme screamed creativity, then restricted the user blog in a tiny box.
  • The menu elements were also graphics, not text. Without the funky font the original designer used, there was no way I could fix the misspelled word and have it match the other items. As it turned out, I found an updated version of the theme that fixed the typo.
  • The default sidebar widgets had custom graphic headers. Adding user-defined widgets to the sidebar deleted those out. This obviated the need to try to match graphic text, but the new text didn’t fit the rest of the theme.
  • Sharing options were built in to the theme. Again, this was a nice gesture by the designer, but it had limitations. What if your primary market is on a social network not included in the defaults? Without knowing code, the user can’t change this. This is better handled by a plugin.

My friend is now on at least her second replacement theme. Time will tell how long that one lasts.