Not all sites need comment functionality, but chances are that a lot of the sites you'll be building with WordPress will. Most, if not all, blogs allow readers to comment on the posts, and the same goes for the vast majority of editorial sites out there, from newspapers to magazines. It is just a good way to connect with the readership, and while the sites in question may have completely different motives for doing this, and may have different comment policies, the basic functionality remains the same.
From a WordPress theme designer's point of view, comments can be a bore, mostly because making them look good can be a problem. The actual code isn't all that hard, though, and if you like the default comment view (as featured in the default WordPress theme) you won't even have to create the comments.php template file. We looked closer at such a file in the "A Closer Look at the Notes Blog Core" section earlier in this chapter, so we'll gloss over that part for now and look at the comments from a less technical point of view for a little while.
These are the most important things to consider when designing the comments section of a site:
■ It needs to be obvious where the comment section begins. You don't want the readers to mix up comments with the editorial content.
■ The comments need to be easy to read, just like the rest of the site.
■ Proper spacing between comments, along with alternating colors or dividing lines, helps to separate them from each other. Any way that accomplishes this separation is a good way.
■ It has to be obvious who the comment author is.
■ The post comment form should be obvious to use, properly tabbed, and use a readable font in a decent size. Think about it: if you want the readers to write long and insightful comments, you should make it as easy on them as possible to do so.
A few other things comes to mind as well, not as important design-wise but still in need of a decision and possible proper placing within the comments area:
■ What's the comment policy? You should link to it or put it in small print along with the Post Comment button.
■ Do you allow HTML code? If so, which tags are acceptable?
■ Do the comments go into moderation before publication? If they do, you should probably let the readers know, or at the very least output a big note when a posted comment goes into moderation.
■ Do you require signup and/or login to comment? Then make that process as simple and obvious as possible.
Think the comment functionality through and you'll be fine. You'll also have a much easier time designing it, and possibly altering the functionality as well.
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