Yesterday I wrote about succumbing to the temptation of third-party comment forms on this site. I then promptly installed Commento.io which, as promised, took a matter of minutes; after which I had optional authentication (email and social), threaded comments, flagging, spam protection, stickied comments and ratings up and running. What’s not to love?
Well, a few things. This is not to criticise Commento in particular, which is a straightforward, paid-for service – the best of a similar bunch, including Disqus and Comment Box. Indeed, these problems extend to any third-party service where you’re handing over control of the backend and the generated HTML, and at least Commento just spits out HTML, rather than an
iFrame. Nonetheless, here’s where I’d have used different markup:
- Comment submissions aren’t marked up as forms. Apart from not really making sense – submitted data belongs in a form with a
- Indeed, the
divis the favoured grouping element throughout the markup – there are no
articles either, for example. Even comment times are marked up with
divs rather than
- The login button is neither a button or a link. It’s a
aria-attributes to even indicate what it’s actually for. Again, presumably this requires a lot of coding to get working. More concerningly, it means it’s not focusable, so you can only activate it by tapping or clicking it: you can’t tab to it and press enter.
- As well as being inconsistently and often incorrectly marked up, links to actions such as login, upvote and Markdown are rendered in a pale grey that fails WCAG 2.1 AA contrast criteria unless bolded.
- There’s a pale grey, centred Add a comment placeholder in the comment
textarea. Placeholders are an inaccessible alternative to HTML
labels and can cause some confusion as users try and delete them from an
inputbox. The only time I’ve seen anyone get upset during user testing – to the extent that at one point I thought they may start crying – was when they couldn’t navigate an
inputwith a placeholder.
- While the branding is quite light, it still doesn’t look like my website. I’d never use
12pxtext, especially in a font with a small
There’s a bit of a dilemma here. While the selling points of third-party services can be really seductive, especially to those who don’t understand the importance of good quality markup, I don’t think it’s ever worth ceding control of the front end to someone else. Most HTML out there is of a variable quality – you don’t want your site, and its visitors, to suffer as well.