In this ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, we’ve talked about blog clutter with too many “friend” pictures and badges and calendar archives, two of the many elements many use to clog up their blog’s sidebar. “Clutter” is a matter of perspective. If these added design elements really work for your blog, serve your blog’s purpose, and enhance the reader’s experience, leave them. In fact, put them at the top where they are the first thing people will see next to your post title and content beginnings. Promote them. If they are that important, let them stand out.
If they are not important, then they do become clutter.
One of the most popular blog clutters are the Most Recent Comments and Shout Boxes that many feel are important elements to a blog’s design.
The web is now social. People are experimenting with all types of methods to bring the social to their blogs and emphasize how social their blogs are – or at least appear to be. Among the most popular and easy to do are most recent comment widgets and chatting shout boxes.
The Shout Box
The most recent comments widget or Plugin displays the comments recently posted on your blog. A shout box comes in all different types, shapes, and names but is basically a live chat window where visitors and readers can leave messages for the blog administrator or post author.
A shout box is a live chat, with little or no connection to your blog posts nor content. Anyone can leave you a message within the box, asking questions, saying hello, or just saying dumb things.
While many younger people enjoy the live chat feature, it is most enjoyable when you are glued to your computer and can participate. Otherwise, it’s just like a notepad on your dorm room door where people can leave messages for you if they stop by when you are out. The responses are threaded nor topic specific, and you aren’t sure the visitor will even return to see your answer. It’s also not content, so to speak, as it isn’t really searchable nor preservable in many cases. It’s just a chat.
Many use a shout box as a form of online graffiti, writing anything they want, often inane and silly stuff.
The best usage of shout boxes I’ve seen over the years is when the conversation is directed. If you ask a specific question, like a poll, in the heading, the blogger can actually direct the chat so readers can jot down their suggestions, ideas, feedback, or opinions on the subject. A poll or online survey is better equipped to handle such feedback from the Administration Panels of the blog rather than just on the blog’s web page.
So what good is your live chat shout box doing you? Is it working for you? Is it working for your readers? Are they using it wisely? Or is it filled with a lot of nonsense? Should it stay or go?
Most Recent Comments
If your blog is a social blog, then “who said what when and on what post” on your blog is important. People like seeing their names on the screen – or do they? Do your readers enjoy seeing their names pop up on a screen after they leave a comment on your blog? If your blog is a serious blog, more of a resource than conversation, then who cares who said what when on your blog?
If your blog’s design doesn’t use the sidebar on single post pageviews, then the only time anyone would see their name published in your most recent comments list is when they return to your blog’s front page or other pageviews with the sidebar present.
The most recent comments list, however, is a secondary listing of all your blog’s comments from every blog post. They are not threaded, they are not connected, but they do list the person’s name (whatever they put in the comment form) and the title of the post, and many showcase their comment as well. This connects some of the dots with the content.
EVERY comment that gets through the spam filter appears in your most recent comments list. How many blogs have you stumbled upon recently that had sex, drugs, mortgages, casinos, or inappropriate comments sitting in that queue? Or the famous “asdfg” or “aaassssffff” – which I admit are very helpful comments to leave. :D
I found four in the past week. I glanced over to find a comment about where to find sexy Asian girls to do…well, you know what. On a blog about real estate – you bet I thought WTF.
These recent comments widgets and Plugins pull in ALL comments from your blog, usually out of context. People tend to comment in shorthand (I lk yr blg) or in response to something someone else said earlier in the conversation that is no longer visible in the Widget, thus are totally out of context from the other comments in the Widget.
Amazed at one Recent Comment Plugin listing recently, I copied it, changing the names and titles to protect the pitiful. It listed the name of the commenter (whatever they supplied in the comment form), the post title, and then a short excerpt of their comment.
- Dinging David on Fred Took a Walk Today: You’ve made a good point and I will…
- Timid Tommy on Think I Know Anything: Oh, yeah, sorry, forgot to mention that…
- Rocking Rudy on Movie Knight: If the clothes make the person, then what am I…
- Slippery Sam on Dancing Now: u crk me up.
- Flipping Phillip on The Fox Versus the Monopoly: I’m totally in love with the…
- Jumping Jimmy on Learning to Laugh: Nice!!!
- Silly Sally on Crack the Whip: I know a guy who can help you get off this.
- Axey Axel on Living Large: I’ve been on him for a while…
- California Girl on Picking Teeth: This is just too stupid to watch.
- Bobbing Boggy on Dancing Now: I’m just watching him fall…
- Rising Arizona on Investing In You: You’re putting fake money into my fake pockets…
- Singing Sue on Living Large: I’m good at boneheaded moves and…
- Ducky Dick on Moving Sidewalks: Finger on the button and it won’t blow…
Besides being funny if read in context, is there anything that makes you want to click through to those conversations? Or the posts that started them? Or the links to the commenters? The blog was on self-improvements and self-help, and I’m not seeing many keywords in the comments that make those comments important content or information for a visitor – or a search engine.
It did leave an impression – that the discussions on this blog have nothing to do with the reasons that brought me there.
What do your most recent comments display say about your blog?
How important is the list of most recent comments on your blog? Is it helpful to your readers? Do you see a lot of intrasite links in traffic from that list to those blog posts? Does it improve site navigation?
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.