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Making comments more accessible

  • Work Life

I was just going through a list of sites that link here and stumbled back upon Russ Weakley's Anatomy of a comment. Having wanted to try and tick all his boxes for a while, I think I've managed to make my comments section a little more accessible.

Russ identifies these attributes of a comment:

  1. Author name - who wrote the comment
  2. Authors url - the authors website
  3. Authors avatar - the digital representation of the author
  4. Permalink - a permanent link to the specific comment
  5. Number - A reference number for the specific comment
  6. Date - date of comment
  7. Time - time of comment
  8. Comment - the actual comment
  9. Edit this comment - allows authors to edit their comments
  10. Other comments by this person - see example
  11. Site owner flagging - some sort of visual distinction to shows comments from the site owner/s

At the time of his post (9th Feb 2008) my site showed the author's name, comment date and time and the comment itself. That's essentially the bare minimum. If you check out any of my posts that have comments today, you'll find the author's name, their web site url, avatar (the little picture), a permalink to the comment, the comment number for that post, date, time, comment and site owner flagging. I might add an "other comments by this author" feature at some point.

Russ also discovered there are many ways in which permalinks are offered:

  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Date and time (by far the most common option)
  4. A graphic icon
  5. The


  6. The word “permalink”
  7. Comment title

My site used the date and time version, but I've now also linked the comment number and added the text (permalink) after the date. So what's the point of all this? I'm not sure!

Perhaps I felt I had to fill in the gaps that Russ had identified. Perhaps my pedantic nature won't allow me not to make this site as accessible as possible. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that last sentence which will no doubt bite me in the backside when people point out obvious omissions in accessibility on my site.

Russ was looking at this from a developer's point of view. I'd like to hear the readers opinion.

So tell me, do you care? Do you ever bookmark comments or just the whole post? What about emails to friends and colleagues? Do you care that it's comment number 45? Does it help or distract when the author's posts are highlighted? Do avatars annoy you or do you like them?


hm... just because he identifies an element of a comment doesn't mean he's saying it's mandatory does it? IMO the avatar is pretty useless, but there seems to be certain circles where it is the norm.

Comment numbers are useful, and if you get the same people coming back to respond multiple times then they are more or less vital. On The Age blogs I've seen people reference previous comments by timestamp. it's not pretty!

there are other elements that he missed. like... preview options: - no preview - optional preview - forced preview

Wordpress by default seems to not even offer preview. WTF. That is especially bad when you are not sure if links will work automagically, you have to provide HTML (or maybe it will be stripped out?), or some other markup syntax.

My blog engine, Textpattern (, has forced preview, which the devs claim cuts back on spam and is good for commenters even if they don't like it. I suspect it leads to a few lost comments, as the preview is in-place and after hitting preview it is easy to forget you also have to hit submit, as everything already looks complete.

in conclusion: less avatars, more preview.


Definitely not mandatory. I didn't mean to imply that Russ thought they should all be there. He just shared findings that I thought were interesting and my OCD kicked in of its own accord ;-)

I like the idea of previews - I'll look into WP plugins when I get the time. Definitely a good idea.

I'll be keeping the avatars though - it can add a little life to the comments section. Perhaps I can disable avatars for those that don't have one instead of showing the the silhouetted anonymous person, which is very useless.

Thanks for stopping by! BB

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