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Users' replies to posts on a blog-type site, or replies to replies and so on, are usually called "comments". And so long as the invitation to respond is not as cutesy as "Have your say" or "Join the conversation", it usually takes the form of "Leave a comment" or "Post a comment".

What are the pros and cons of using an alternative word to "comment", such as "response"? For example, the number of replies might be given in the form "73 responses" and the invitation to respond could appear as "Post a response".

Might the word "response" deter some users from posting throwaway waste-of-time remarks? Might it also induce some users whose replies would be welcome to believe that they are insufficiently "expert" to contribute? Or might it do both, reducing the demographic of possible responders unwantedly far? Perhaps the word "comment" is so predominant that the use of an alternative word would be considered tendentious?

Informed and considered opinions and references to research would be much appreciated!

  • Using the word "response" won't necessarily improve feedback or discussion quality. It could have the opposite effect since remarks such as "Good job!" and "I agree." are responses. On this site, there are long responses called "Answers" and short responses called "Comments". Neither are intended to be used to express simple agreement, disagreement, or thanks without an accompanying explanation. – 習約塔 Jun 8 at 15:54
  • Yes, one aim if "response" is used would be to discourage "comments" that are akin to "likes" or "dislikes". But taken literally "comment" too could cover "Good job!", if not perhaps "I agree", even if they are fairly synonymous. This site doesn't seem to get many "like"-type comments at all, at least assuming moderators aren't working hard day and night to remove them. Although here there is an upvoting and downvoting system of positively and negatively reinforcing behaviour which I won't be using. – ruffle Jun 9 at 9:44
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Might the word "response" deter some users from posting throwaway waste-of-time remarks?

  • This depends more on the users you are targeting and the overall community you are trying to build by rewarding certain behaviors over others, rather than the labeling. For example, if your target audience is a professional sector, and their profiles carry real names, etc, the comments tend to more productive. On the other hand, non-professional anonymous circles can also have productive commentary, such as certain sub-Reddits.
  • Using the word "response" or "comment" won't really affect the outcome of comment quality. If a user wants to troll, they will troll, if they want to discuss, they will. The incentive to post is based on personal reasons stemming from the content rather than labeling in a website.
  • Political/social topics and controversial elements were more prominent among the highly commented-upon items.
  • The Psychology of online comments

Might it also induce some users whose replies would be welcome to believe that they are insufficiently "expert" to contribute? Or might it do both, reducing the demographic of possible responders unwantedly far?

  • As described above, it depends on the overall product and community your are building.
  • You could, however, use more professional terminology across your product to deter non target audience users from accessing. But such an approach also carries its negative usability issues, as even professionals tend to prefer simple language.
  • Plain Language Is for Everyone, Even Experts

Perhaps the word "comment" is so predominant that the use of an alternative word would be considered tendentious?

  • The concept of "consistency" is highly relevant in usability. Users are more comfortable with familiar elements and instantly understand what they are based on previous experience. This is why design patterns exists.
  • Same concept applies to labels. For example, users looking for information about a company tend to look for an "About Us" variation label. This is why it is often recommended not messing around too much with such labels.
  • Same concept applies to "comment". There is no rule stating that a comment section should use the word "comment", but you should stick to some "comment"-like labeling such as "response", "reply", "discuss" etc.
  • On the other hand, if you have built a community that has developed its own lingo, then customized labels can be used, as your users would have reached a common understanding of their meaning.
  • Principle of Consistency and Standards in User Interface Design

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