Build a Commenter Community with Disqus

I am a strong believer in the idea that no website would be successful without input from its visitors. After all, those are the website’s audience, and as such, have the biggest opinion on the sort of things that are posted because otherwise. Otherwise, why would they visit? If you’re running a blog or any website which invites users to comment, one app to definitely check out is Disqus.

A comments platform specifically designed for websites looking to unite their users’ comments, Disqus can be a great addition to any website. In this how-to, I’ll be showing you how to get Disqus up and running on your website so you can begin uniting your users through comments.

What is Disqus?

First and foremost, it’s important to become familiar with the type of service Disqus provides before immediately adding it to your website. Disqus is a powerful comments platform that allows website owners to add an integrated discussion system to their website incredibly easily. Once set up, it allows users to log into the system with their existing account but also supports a variety of popular social accounts that can be used to authorise the app and overall help to speed up the time taken to get themselves ready to use the system.

Overview

Overview

Getting Started

To get Disqus added to your own website, there are a couple of things you’ll need. Firstly and quite obviously, you’re going to need a website and the appropriate file permissions to edit pages within that website. Disqus supports websites in any form so whether your site consists of just static HTML pages or you’ve built it around a popular CMS, you don’t need to worry in the slightest whether Disqus will be compatible with it.

Also, you’re going to need a Disqus account. These are provided entirely free of charge and can be obtained simply by visiting the website. During the registration process, you can already enter your website’s details to begin getting the account set up with that site and provide the comments feature but should you just want a commenter account (rendering the next bit of this article a bit useless to you), you can also grab one of these.

Adding the Site

During registration, you’ll be presented with the steps needed to add a site to the Disqus account (or if you’ve already got an account, you can still access the same steps by navigating to the ‘Add Site’ link, as I’ve done). You’ll be asked for the URL of the site, the name and a shortname that will form the Disqus subdomain from which you can access the control panel of the comments.

Adding a Site to Disqus

Adding a Site to Disqus

On the next screen, you’ll be able to enable and disable certain features for the Disqus comments for a website. These features are quite handy and most allow useful features like enabling users to upload media, comment to others within a thread and also, it gives the option for users to ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ other comments. A lot of this is self-explanatory and don’t worry, you’ll be able to edit these afterwards through the control panel.

Enabling/Disabling Features

Enabling/Disabling Features

Installing Disqus

Now that the prerequisite stuff’s out of the way, you’ll then be able to install Disqus onto a website. As I mentioned earlier, this can either be a static site using their universal JavaScript code or one of the various CMSes that Disqus supports.

Supported Platforms

Supported Platforms

To a Static Website

By far the easiest option to get Disqus up and running is by using the universal code snippet. It’s basically a JavaScript snippet that can be pasted into the HTML code of any website where the comments are needed and it will automatically display the thread. All you need to change is the forum’s shortname and you’re set.

The Disqus Static Embed Code

The Disqus Static Embed Code

That’s it. It’s as simple as that. If you’re a bit more savvy with JavaScript, you may want to look into using their additional code that allows for the comments count to be added where needed. You can add additional Disqus identifiers to make the comments a bit more reliable, especially if page URLs are likely to change.

To a CMS

The other option is to install one of their plugins for your chosen CMS. Because I can’t demonstrate each and every one, I’ll be using my personal favorite: the insanely popular WordPress. Once chosen from the list, Disqus provides a list of instructions required to install the plugin to a self-hosted WordPress installation.

WordPress Installation

WordPress Installation

Once this is complete, the native comments system on the WordPress installation will be replaced by Disqus and from the comments section of the sidebar, you’ll immediately be presented with an embedded Disqus comment management section much like that of the control panel of Disqus itself. In other words, after it’s all properly configured, you probably won’t need to leave your site to moderate the comments and you’re all set.

WordPress Comment Administration

WordPress Comment Administration

The Disqus-powered WordPress Comments

The Disqus-powered WordPress Comments

Moderating Comments

As you would expect, the Disqus team have ensured that website owners have the right set of features and functionality needed to efficiently manage all incoming comments on a website or post. A hefty variety of options are provided to ensure that the new comments system runs as smoothly as possible. Moderation settings are provided based on a variety of criteria – for example, should a comment contain a link or an image upload, they can be automatically required to be approved before public viewing, comments can be automatically closed on a thread after a set number of days to ensure that the discussions stay fresh and also, there’s an option to just require all comments to be moderated before being published.

Altering Moderation Settings

Altering Moderation Settings

From either the comments section of a CMS (if you’re using WordPress or something similar) or the actual Disqus website, comments can be seen and approved based on their content. Moderators can be added to help with these and comments themselves can be filtered based on status.

Moderating Comments

Moderating Comments

Everything Else

If I said that Disqus allowed you to tweak some of the features to suit your needs, I’d be lying. It allows you to tweak just about everything! From the default avatar picture to the way it phrases ‘0 comments’, it gives its users the ability to modify most sections of the platform to ensure that it works well for the site owner and looks good for everyone else.

In addition to this, it also allows you to see all of your own comments from the dashboard and in what context these were added (for example, was it a reply to someone else?). These can be filtered and you can follow other users to see just what they’re saying too!

The Dashboard

The Dashboard

Final Thoughts

Communities are what fuel websites and having an active group of users who regularly provide input into a conversation is key to setting your otherwise solitary-voiced website apart from the others. This is the reason why forums and blogs have become so popular — people love to have their say on certain topics and by giving them an opportunity to do so, you’re also creating a better website that has a wider appeal in the long-run.

I’ve tried not to turn this into a review but you can probably tell by the way I’m raving about the app. It’s certainly one I’d recommend you make use of. It provides a really nice feature set that can ensure that your comments system is set apart from just about any other website and overall, I just think it’s great. Kudos to the Disqus team!


  • Silence

    And it uses no disqus? o_O

  • http://www.unitedcommunities.com Virginia Lawrence

    I’m excited for these new communities! Thanks for giving those of us far far away in Calgary a chance to be a part of something!

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