Integrated Online Comment Forums: Giving Readers a Voice

Even in the early days of the developing internet, online communication played a crucial role in the overall functionality of websites. Users flocked to internet-based communication systems thanks to their instantaneous, global reach, providing people a way to share information quickly, anonymously, and publicly with unparalleled ease. Perhaps the most popular of these systems are internet forums and messaging boards where users can post content and comments to engage in discussions. Though now less popular as a form of internet communication, online forums remain a significant and essential part of the internet.

https://medium.com/level-up-web/most-popular-3rd-party-comment-systems-for-your-website-9f4329a4c6bf

Integrated comment forums are popular user forums, allowing users to comment on a website’s content. Many free website comments hosting services exist to facilitate these comments, and most can be integrated seamlessly into your websites. There are also paid services and upgrade plans that add features and remove annoyances like advertisements, enhancing your and your users’ experience. Some of these integrated website comment sections offer many features to improve user experiences, while others try to keep it simple and focus on the basics.

Ready to try forums out yourself? Continue reading to learn about using, integrating, and managing your comment forums for your website.

Why should I use integrated comment forums?

Online comment forums provide various benefits, helping website owners improve the sites they create and manage. These comment sections primarily increase user engagement on the site, keeping them around longer and giving them away to be a part of the content and the people around it. These effects can be attributed to the fact that a comment forum provides users with a way to participate in the content and the discussion surrounding it. You are, after all, giving your users a voice.

A comment forum gives users a conduit through which they can express their thoughts and feelings about the content on the site. Users are included in the content to some extent, connecting them with the more significant discussion.

Good content frequently generates discussion, and a comment system can facilitate such discussion, giving people an outlet for their thoughts. What makes integrated comment forums excellent for this purpose is their ease of access — they are placed on the same page as the content. This proximity to the content dramatically improves the chances of a user commenting on the content, leading to more comments overall and thus a stronger sense of community and greater engagement. Integrated layouts also simplify the commenting process for the user — they do not need to leave for another site or switch back and forth between the content page and comment page. Users just joining the discussion benefit as well, as all the context they need to understand and participate in the discussion is contained entirely within the webpage.

When should I use integrated comment forums?

Now, it must be noted that integrated comment forums are not always beneficial to your site. Though they improve user engagement, give users a voice, facilitate discussions, and provide a convenient way for people to be a part of the content on your site, they are not a universal tool.

Comment sections give people a voice, but this voice may not always be used for altruistic or socially acceptable purposes. When it comes to controversial, political, or other similarly volatile content, people may use the voice that the comment forum gives them to spread hate or anger, turning people away from the website. As such, it is in your best interest to refrain from using integrated comment forums if you regularly host controversial content on your website.

Other websites and web pages may also benefit from a lack of comment forums for different reasons. For instance, a webpage designed to convey factual information — such as a “Specifications” or “Pricing” page — will only be diminished by the presence of a comment section.

You may also want to avoid integrated comment forums on online stores, function-focused sites like a mapping or email site, personal blogs, or professional sites. Comments tend to be hostile or unhelpful on sites like these, and a comment section only contributes to unnecessary clutter. Keep integrated comment forums as a tool in your toolbox — but as with all things, use it in moderation.

Thankfully, many of these issues can simply be avoided using sound judgment and an intentional choice of platform. Consider how a comment section will be used on your site or page. If a comment forum does not complement your content, contribute to the site’s functionality, or provide any other meaningful benefit to the user or site, it is best left out.

Integrated Comment Forum Hosting Services

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular comment forum hosting services and see how they stack up:

Disqus

Price: Free with Ads

Disqus has been one of the most popular and most accessible free online comment forums, allowing website owners to integrate comments at no cost to them. However, it includes advertisements, which may intrude on some users.

Fortunately, they offer plans starting at $11/mo to remove ads and allow for use on up to three sites. It features many essential moderation tools, preventing spam and keeping comment sections clean.

Users must create an account to comment, which is a barrier for some, but Disqus allows users to use existing Google accounts, easing the restrictions a little.

Disqus is best suited for smaller sites that want comment forums but do not have the budget to pay for other platforms. It is easy to use and integrates nicely with almost any site, making it a prime choice for most users.

Pros:

○ Free

○ Popular and well-supported

○ Ad-free paid plans available at competitive prices

Cons:

○ Requires an account to comment

○ Advertisements in the free version

IntenseDebate

Price: Free

Though less popular than Disqus, IntenseDebate is another free and excellent integrated comment hosting service that provides almost identical functionality. Its appearance may be somewhat dated, but it remains a valuable and effective way of integrating comment forums on your site.

Their service is also free, making it especially attractive for those without the budget to maintain the services. It also lacks the advertisements in the free version of Disqus, making it especially lovely for website owners who wish to avoid advertising on their page.

On the downside, IntenseDebate has been somewhat ignored by its new developer, Automattic, meaning that it is unlikely to receive updates, support, or a much-needed visual makeover. For the time being, though, it is a capable platform.

IntenseDebate is best suited for small unfunded sites that also want comment forums. It integrates nicely with WordPress and Tumblr blogs, making it an excellent option for users of those platforms. However, it lacks the same support that free alternatives like Disqus have, which may be a deal-breaker for some.

Pros:

○ Free

○ No advertisements

○ WordPress and Tumblr integration

Cons:

○ Unlikely to get updates

○ Little user support

○ Dated appearance

○ Requires an account to comment

HTML Comment Box

Price: Free with Ads

If neither of the two free options above is to your fancy, HTML Comment Box offers a simple, easily integrated opportunity for your website. It is modern, primary, and only provides essential functions but works like a charm for sites that need little from their commenting system. It has basic spam filters, a customizable appearance, and plenty of widgets to add functionality to your site. The service offers comment migration, which may be helpful for those switching from another platform.

https://www.htmlcommentbox.com/

These widgets include review systems, like/dislike systems, polling systems, blog setups, contact forms, and calendar systems, which you can pick and choose from or omit from your site entirely.

Although HTML Comment Box is the simplest of all these comment hosting services and works well for those who only want basic functionality and no extra fluff, they offer paid plans to remove advertisements and add some other features, none of which are critical to the functionality of the comment section.

Altogether, HTML Comment Box is a workable Disqus alternative that may suit some sites better than others. It lacks any of the fancy features and accounts other comment forum hosting services have but efficiently serves its purpose.

Pros:

○ Free

○ Simple

○ No account required to comment

○ Easy to customize with CSS

○ Comment migration available

Cons:

○ Basic functionality

○ Advertisements in the free version

○ Not as flexible as other host services

Commento

Price: Starts at $10/mo or $99/yr

Somewhat of an underdog in the game, Commento provides simple, clean, and intuitive commenting systems at an affordable price. With simple integration and tools for transitioning from Disqus, it stands as the ideal step up from the free comment forum hosting service many rely on. The service is also far less demanding on computer systems than its competitors, loading faster, using up less code, and being easier on the user’s computer overall.

https://commento.io/

As with all of these services, Commento uses moderation tools and filters to keep spam and nasty comments out of your site. It also allows users to comment without an account, making it extremely easy for users to engage — no signup required. Its paid nature also results in no advertisements, giving users a clean, ad-free experience that encourages them to leave comments on the site, boosting user engagement and supplementing the content.

Commento is a service ideal for website owners willing to shell out some cash for a quality comment forum hosting service that gets the job done quickly and efficiently. It is perhaps the most usable and accessible of these services, giving users and website owners the tools they need to make the most of integrated comment forums.

Pros:

○ Easy transition from Disqus

○ Quick to load

○ No advertisements

○ No account required to comment

Cons:

○ Limited to 50,000 pageviews before prices increase

Discourse

Price: Starts at $100/mo

Though powerful, Discourse is the most expensive of these services by a significant margin. Their service begins at a whopping $100 per month but provides several benefits to website owners. Firstly, their software is open source, meaning technically skilled users can even host comments on their own for free. They always offer exemplary paid service for those not able to put in the extra time and energy necessary to self-host using their software. It will require far more effort and knowledge to get set up and running, but it is an incredible way to save on the relatively high service cost.

Secondly, Discourse contains one of the most oversized suites of features and tools for integrated comment systems. One of the most important features is the backup service, which backs up your site comment data to the cloud. These backups prevent possible loss of comments from your site — an issue that some sites struggle with.

Discourse’s feature toolbox continues with statistics and metrics tracking, the ability to reply to comments via email, easy integration with social media login systems, spam filters, plugin support, anonymous posting, and two-factor authentication for accounts. These all place it as one of the most fully-featured comment forum hosting services, making it ideal for those who want as many features as possible.

All of this service comes with a hefty price tag. Thankfully, this price tag can be cut by self-hosting the comment forum, getting their excellent 85% educational discount, or 50% discount for nonprofit organizations.

Pros:

○ Powerful and flexible service

○ Automatic comment backups

○ Discounts available for organizations

○ Open Source, self-hosting available

○ Translation service available with plugins

Cons:

○ Expensive

○ Limited to 100,000 monthly pageviews before prices increase

○ Requires an account to comment

Muut

Price: Starts at $16/mo (billed annually, $20/mo for month-to-month)

Though I only go into detail about it now, the previously listed paid services — Commento and Discourse — have traffic limits for their cheapest plans. Commento will charge their rate of $10/mo or $99/yr as long as your site remains under 50,000 daily pageviews. Discourse will charge $100/mo if your site remains under 100,000 monthly pageviews.

https://muut.com/tour/

Both will require you to upgrade your plan if your page begins reaching page views greater than those limits. The service will not stop working in the meantime, but you will need to either pay more or your service will be canceled if you refuse their offers to upgrade your plan.

This is where Muut comes in. With a competitive price of $16 per month and many of the same features that other services provide, it is an excellent option for an ad-free comment hosting service for a more extensive website. Muut does not have traffic limits at all.

It requires users to make an account, which is a barrier to entry. Like Disqus, it does allow users to create accounts using existing Google and Facebook accounts, easing this barrier. It even offers automatic translation into 28 different languages, making it excellent for website owners who serve international communities.

As a whole, Muut provides an excellent comment hosting service for large website owners expecting an international audience with lots of traffic. Its developers offer large amounts of documentation on every feature, making learning how to use the service as easy as possible.

Pros:

○ No traffic limits

○ No advertisements

○ Multi-language translation and support built-in

○ Extensive user support

Cons:

○ Requires an account to comment

○ Slightly more expensive than competitors

Having gone through these five excellent options that host your site’s comment forum services, you can now weigh your options and pick the one that works best for you. Of course, you could always host the comment forum yourself, but if you are not willing or able to do so, these options will work just as well, if not better.

Now that you know all you need to know about forums, comment sections, and comment hosting services for your website, go out there and build your community. Your users are waiting!

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Visualwebz

Visualwebz

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A Seattle web design and online marketing agency that delivers high-end websites. A passion for web development and SEO.