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I'm sure most (or all) of you have seen sites that offer a comment form and a "title" field. However, is the title field really necessary? If so, what is the motivation behind it?

In my opinion, it is really pointless and adds more things to do for the user. Usually when I see a title field (mandatory) I don't make a comment at all; am I the only one or do anyone else have the same feeling?

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Can you link to such an example in your post? Or add an image, etc.? –  Uticensis Apr 23 '11 at 9:34
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6 Answers

Titles is a good idea if: The posts are long, so the titles are actually links into a sub tree of the conversation just like this page. All the questions have titles that are links. and when you click them you see the branch under that question.

Titles also works as an summary of what the longer text is about. To have the first few words as a summary isn't a good idea since the summary can be totally irrelevant.

Titles can also be unnecessary: My sports team had a forum where we just entered a text if we could attend at the next game, so the header was redundant. Sure, the header was in bold text, but since everyone used the header for the reply, all posts where bold - hence it just looked bulky.

Conclusion - to use title or not is context dependent: If short texts are used, then normally no. If longer texts are used - vice versa.

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Titles in comments are very useful for email notifications to add a correct title for a letter.

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As usual, it depends.

Comments where? How long are they going to get? How many comments are going be there? Very short comments don't need titles, and you also don't need titles where you aren't likely to get a high number of comments, so you can display them all and you don't need to save space. Facebook doesn't support titles to comments, and there's no need for them.

On the other hand, many news websites support titles for talkbacks, and it's a good idea. They show the talkbacks collapsed, and they're extremely useful if you want to get the general spirit of the comments without having to actually read them all. I can form an impression about a hundred talkbacks in the time it would take me to read three (and that's if I don't have to expand them).

For another example - Livejournal is a blogging platform where it's not uncommon to get thousands of comments, in a possibly extremely deep branching. So titles are very helpful there. The problem is that livejournal only decides to collapse comments after a certain limit is reached, and in most cases it isn't - so people are used to their comments being expanded to begin with, and they rarely use titles. But on websites where visitor know that their comment is going to be collapsed, they use titles in very smart ways.

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Comment titles are a way to make the programmers life easier.
- No need to go over the comment and select a whole amount of words for which,
the total amount of characters until the end of the last word
(+ 3 for "..." if total < comment.Length) to be used as preview of comment.

E.g.

This is my title

And this is my very very long comment
with lots and lots of text in it
bla bla bla.

Vs.

This is my very very long comment...

This is my very very long comment
with lots and lots of text in it
bla bla bla.

If the commenter want to say something briefly before the long bla bla, he/she can do so in the body of the title-less comment, just as easily, if not even more easily.

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Titles in comments are there to make the lives of the people answering / reading them easier, but not the lives of those posting them.

We see this all the time where design choices are made based on "what makes my life easier?" rather than on "what makes a better user experience?".

Unless it is absolutely necessary for some reason, I wouldn't use them.

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I skip them all the time. I think it’s a kind of system thinking, like in databases, where every table should have id, there somebody think that every thing should have a title, which is not the case for comments, obviously.

And of course, required fields are almost always evil. There’s no way to force users to write a meaningful title, so they will try to trick system by writing some random keystrokes into titles, which will work against this title system, not for it.

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If the comment is collapsed, skipping the title will leave you with a comment that people may not bother expanding. –  Danny Varod Apr 17 '11 at 18:50
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Or the system could simply create a title by using the first few words of the actual comment.... –  Oskar Duveborn Apr 18 '11 at 15:35
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