WordPress 4.4 to Possibly Rearrange Fields to the Comment Form

WordPress plugin and theme developers need to take note of an important change in WordPress 4.4 that rearranges the comment form. In WordPress 4.4, the comment form is arranged so that the text area is displayed first followed by the name, email, and website fields.

Comment Text Area is First
Comment Text Area is First

According to Aaron Jorbin, WordPress core developer, the change improves navigation when using the keyboard to toggle through fields. It also makes it easier for users to leave comments.

Since the change requires filters and actions to run in a different order, the HTML output by comment_form will be different. Jorbin explains that if developers use any of the hooks inside comment_form, especially comment_form_field_comment and comment_form_after_fields, developers should test their themes and plugins using WordPress 4.4 nightlies.

If you run into any problems or inconsistencies, please report them to ticket #29974. What do you think of the change? Do you think readers want to write their comment first instead of filling out the other three fields?


37 responses to “WordPress 4.4 to Possibly Rearrange Fields to the Comment Form”

  1. That’s interesting and I like it. When they are done reading a post, why hinder the momentum. You either want to comment or you don’t. You should be able to dive right into it, and the other stuff, well, an after-thought.

    In fact it could be helpful.

    People immediately get turned off by having to put in their name and email, lost interest in the point they are there.

    Instead, they put time into a comment, and then add the rest. It seems like you would be more likely to fill it out without a second thought.

    Anyway, just some thoughts… but I think it’s a good move. :)

  2. I quite like the change. There is a sort of visual hierarchy and a slight psychological one as well because your eyes are drawn to the comment input field first. It’s what you look for when you want to comment.

    I’m looking forward to this change, just not all theme updates that will follow or support requests. >_<

  3. Makes some sense, as others said, signing your name after the message. However, must make sure there are no odd requirements that are only noticed after writing the message because of this, such as needing an account or to connect with something, any errors etc..

    BUT if it can break backwards compatibility with pretty much anything, it must not be enforced, not now or ever. Make a change like this that may mess up themes and there MUST be a “legacy comment field order” (or such) option introduced and left there, permanently.

  4. I would love to see A/B testing on this. Change just for change sake. The comments form has so few inputs. Just like on this site. I see the “name”, “email” and “website” inputs and I see the “comments”. If I have a thought that I can’t retain for 15 seconds, then I can dive straight down to the “comment” textarea (93px below) and fill in the other 3 fields after my thought is input.

    Reality is, I suppose, if anyone wants to rearrange the comments fields after this change is in core, they can do it.

    • For what it’s worth, this is hardly “change for change sake”. One of the biggest problems with the old version of the form, and which wasn’t mentioned in the article, was that previously, tabbing directly to and entering the comment form wasn’t linearly possible in many cases due to how the fields were set up. In certain circumstances, would have to tab past the form, then shift-tab to get back to it.

      You can probably imagine how well that worked out for non-sighted users or people using screen readers, or really anybody who uses keyboard navigation on a regular basis. The old process of accessing the comment form was essentially: 1) Tab down to the comment form 2) Shift-tab back a step to enter into the comment form 3) Leave a comment. I think that qualifies as broken :)

      • I’m a little confused. I suppose a theme may cause a strange behavior with the form but I have had no issues tabbing where I need to go in the comments form to enter any of the input fields. No shift-tabbing unless desired to make an edit. Can you provide an example site with the behavior you describe? I really would like to understand this. I must say I don’t use screen readers as often as I should in testing so I cannot comment on those at this time. “Tabindex” improperly used can screw up any form. I don’t believe WP core uses tabindexes in the main comments.php & comments-template.php so in most instances the theme is the culprit (unless some other WP Core page makes a change to the tabindex of the comments form or a plugin).

  5. Absolutely agree with BobWP and Kerry. The psychological aspect of turning them off before they commit to writing a comment is great. After I type a comment, I wouldn’t like back out of I have to enter details afterwards because I ten to write lengthy comments. And like Kerry mentioned about those not being able to hold a thought more than 15 seconds (hello ADHD), I always like I did here, skip to comment filed and then go back to add details. Great improvement in my opinion.

    One core foundation I would like to see though is an extension of reverse comment order. When you have thousands of comments like my site, and you reverse so that most recent is at top, there is a major flaw at the point of pagination where you set number of comments per page. Without custom function or plugin, it leads to just a few comments appearing on the first page until it reaches “x” number of comments per the page settings.

    • When you have thousands of comments like my site, and you reverse so that most recent is at top, there is a major flaw at the point of pagination where you set number of comments per page. Without custom function or plugin, it leads to just a few comments appearing on the first page until it reaches “x” number of comments per the page settings.

      Comments are getting a huge amount of focus in the upcoming release. In the last couple of weeks alone, there have already been numerous fixes made to everything from how comments are queried to how they are paginated. I could be mistaken, but I think this was one issue that has been fixed and will ship with 4.4.

      • I would give my right arm, possibly my first born, perhaps my second to see some more focus on comments on several fronts. One being, a search that returns individual comments as the results, not just the post where the comment resides. I have found one plugin that accomplishes this but it is unbearably slow with our volume of comments. If more attention could be given to speeding up queries for those of us with massive comment tables that severely and negatively impact comment moderation and other slow comment queries performing full table scans, I would throw in my left arm and even a leg. Some of the problems are discussed in length here: https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/19901 but a full solution still sits unloved from 4 years ago.

    • There’s an old plugin released a long while ago which resolved this:

      It looks like the author’s website has gone offline sometime in the past several months. Thanksfully, the wayback machine still has a complete archive of the page:

      I reference it because if anyone uses the plugin, you’ll probably want to visit the page and look at the comments sections. Someone posted some useful edits to the plugin which improved it. Someone also posted a method to have the plugin work with the last (newest) comment at the bottom of the page. For folks who like their comments displayed top down, from oldest to newest.

      The plugin does still work with WordPress 4.3.1.

      It’s sad that it has never gotten much recognition or anyone tried to implement something similar. AFAIK, this is the only plugin which accomplishes this. It would be nice if someone forked this and took over development, or WordPress included this functionality into core.

        • You can already switch between Ascending/Descending order in Epoch…
          and since we don’t have pagination there is no issue with few comments on the first page! ;P

          We will hopefully introduce pagination soon though, and you can rest assured we’ll do it right.

      • Thanks TJ, that’s exactly the plugin I use. I never understood why this wasn’t a core functionality. When you select reverse comment order, it should adjust pagination requirements accordingly. It just isn’t sensible to display 1 or 2 comment, to page back and find hundreds more. Our application of comment use is unique in that our content IS our content. Comments are my baby. We have 400k+ comments, 70% of which are on the home page—so when anything with core is about to change with comments—I’m on edge.

        In terms of allowing user to sort comments at their discretion, that sounds great for smaller comment volume; however this would have to be a functionality that we can turn off. Our content is seasonal and during tax season we have thousands of concurrent users commenting and refreshing back to back. 1000s of comments per hour already puts a huge and painful strain on the DB, I couldn’t imagine what it would do if they were able to resort themselves. I know there are other solutions for this volume of conversation rather than native WP comments, but we’ve tried bbpress and buddypress, our users just won’t go for it. And mo way will I go third party (an entirely different set of problems it would create for us.). Seems I am getting off topic, but thoroughly enjoying this convo about comments. Thank you!

  6. Sign me up for this change. Love it. I agree with Bob as well, the idea of signing your comment adds a lot to the experience. It will look and feel nice to integrate with social sign-on plugins as well. Write your comment, and click the twitter icon to prove it is you. Sweet.

  7. As Jessica mentions, there should also be the option of having the comment box at the top of the comments, as opposed to always at the bottom.

    Currently, this is only available via some PHP mangling, or using a 3rd-party option. Having the ability to have the comment form first along with the comment box at the top of comments would be a great UX decision.

    • For ease, yes I like this, and for myself, would probably prefer it.

      But, to play the devils advocate here. The more I think about it, when you are scrolling down you may tend more to “actually start reading the other comments”. In turn, you won’t ask a question or start a conversation that has been already done. Just a thought ;)

      • Hi mate,

        I’m not sure that actually happens. I think if you want to read the comments, you will. If you want to jump to the comment box (if the theme supports hyperlinking to it), you will.

        Otherwise, we’d probably be seeing many more comments on blogs as readers get distracted by something they want to reply to. Which doesn’t seem to be happening. :)

        • Yeah, I see what you mean. But then… for those who do want to take the time to read the comments, once at the bottom, they have to scroll all the way up to the top to comment :) Of course, for those who don’t give a crap about comments, either way will work. As with everything WordPress, we hope we hit the majority with the best UX. and not everyone will be happy… and I’m just having fun now :D

          • I had to read that twice to understand the first part… :) (Mind you, I’m full of flu so my compus mentus isn’t 100%).

            This is probably where the AB testing would be useful. Heat maps, or the ability to see who’s scrolling straight to the comment box. Or, just ask your readers, if there’s a regular community going.

            Either way, gotta be better than the current set-up, that’s for sure!


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