Some time ago, I began removing the HTML comment label from beneath the standard WordPress comment form (no, not the Jetpack-enabled form – the one that ships with a default WordPress theme).

Most of you are familiar with the form as it generally looks something like this:

HTML in Comments

HTML in Comments

Generally speaking I find that that block that usually sits between the textarea and the submit input to introduce complexity and likely cause more confusion than anything else.

HTML Comments in WordPress

Take off your developer or designer hat for just a moment and try to think of what a comment form looks like with the allowed HTML attributes placed below the text field.

It looks like the stuff of movies – it’s code. It’s jargon. It doesn’t mean anything to the person who just wants to join into the conversation or add their thoughts to the blog.

I also think that most developers and or technically-inclined people are already aware of the tags that are supported either because of:

  • Their experience with WordPress
  • Their knowledge of ‘safe tags’ in textarea elements
  • Their need for only a few tags (like italics and/or bold tags)

To that end, I think that this introduces confusion, unnecessary information, or generally shows information for whom the intended audience is already aware of what’s supported. At the very least, perhaps the line of code could be hidden behind an anchor that reads “Click to see what tags we support.”

But that’s just one solution.

If you take a look at the Jetpack comment form, you’ll notice that there’s no notice about the tags that are supported and, in my opinion, this makes for a much cleaner experience.

No HTML Comments

Anyway, as we continue to push forward with theme development and working to refine all aspects of what it is that we’re working on, this is one area in which I urge other designers and developers to seriously consider when working on their theme.

If the HTML comment prompts are needed, great; otherwise, consider leaving them out. It may make the comment experience just a little less intimidating for your readers.

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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. 90% of my clients called me to report a “bug” in their comments section when they saw these HTML allowed tags…
    This demonstrates that the developers that added this functionality didn’t think about the average user and the expected amount of comments with HTML tags…
    I hope that this would be removed ASAP…
    Meanwhile I had to add code in fuctions.php to remove it…

    • 90% of my clients called me to report a “bug” in their comments section when they saw these HTML allowed tags…

      Yeah – this is partially what inspired this post. I’ve heard the same from sites I’ve worked on.

      Personally, I think it should be off by default, but – as you said – just add some code in functions.php to clean it up :).

      • I’ve heard this exact same thing from clients. It’s a quick disable, but I’m with you. It should probably be off by default. I’ve seen a few other websites include a toolbar for allowing users to bold, italicize, and input syntax, but for most cases people are likely only dropping text in comments.

        On the topic of toolbars, WordPress’s “Kitchen Sink” (the second row in the content editor) should also be enabled by default. I know you can do it via functions, but I’ve had to hold hands with clients on getting that extra toolbar available for them. Love wordpress, but sometimes I scratch my head at little things like that.

  2. Hear, hear! Well said. It’s all-too-seldom that developers take off their developer hat and consider things from an average-user perspective. This is just one example of many such instances of course. Personally, I like to ask my mum (since she knows nothing about code, etc) about something and see if she understands it or not… I call it “the mum test” (no mum jokes please – lol).

    • It’s all-too-seldom that developers take off their developer hat and consider things from an average-user perspective.

      Yeah, it’s a tough habit to break though, in my opinion. If I was to point fingers, I’d have to point at myself, as well :).

      And as far as your “Mum Test” goes, I think that’s a fantastic ideas. Some previous partners and I did similar user-based testing with people who were technically sound and knew how to use computers but we’re necessarily familiar with what we were working on.

      20 minutes reveals a lot.

  3. I have Markdown enabled in comments so I’ve kept that line in there. I have, however, moved all the tags to a tooltip only visible when hovering over “HTML”. Clean but still informative!

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