Things to Think About in Using WordPress’ User Ratings Feature

In early July 2009, WordPress allowed its bloggers to install user rating systems on their blogs as a way to get more feedback. The outstanding How to video below, from WordPress.tv, shows the main features of the system. This post contains how I came to decide which options and features within the options to choose to enable on my blog, coming from a graphic designer, analyst and psychology enthusiast backgroung. For those who have enabled it or are thinking about it, this may be of help. Please feel free to give feedback because I might change my mind on a few things given fresh new perspectives.

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Do I want to be judged at all?
That was my first question. There are a lot of nasty people out there who can only make anything of themselves by putting down others. All you have to do is look at YouTube feedback on any video gone viral or seen to any extent to see comments and such, and presumably some ratings, too, coming out of nowhere. After all, it’s easier to one-click a rating than to have to write a whole comment, though the latter offers identification of the commenter. There are a lot of fair judging, too, with good and bad ratings, but it’s a free for all. Rival bloggers/sites can also come to spam you with bad ratings. That said, though, I decided to try… for now.
YES

Which judging system, stars or Nero?
From the video above, there is a five star system or a thumbs up/down (Nero) system for users to rate. I would say if you put any sort of “craftsmanship” into your blog and want feedback on that, then the stars system is for you. Otherwise, the Nero system is sufficient, like if you want to know if people liked or didn’t like a certain piece so maybe you can produce more similar content. Readers can also use this to indicate whether they agree or disagree, but such a menu choice is less universal to every post. A lot of text media news sites, which read like blogs, use the Nero system. However, their systems are often seen as “recommend” (without the negative opposite) rather than thumbs up/down. But if it’s good enough for them, and they would have done a lot of research on it, then it’s good enough for me.
NERO

Star rating descriptions?
The default is Very poor, Poor, Average, Good, Excellent, which is not ideal for a lot of situations, but it is for many, of course. I would say that if you have an opinion blog, you might try Strong Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree and Strongly Agree. I only bring that up because, of course, blogging is often a means of self-expression and is full of opinions. Again, too bad it can’t be customized for each post since I have posts of graphics and opinions, but for the more generic uses, the Nero system works better.
LEFT AS DEFAULT, but think about other rating names if you have an opinion blog

Ratings Above or Below post?
Having a rating at the top of your post is good to encourage reading if you happen to have a good rating, because with the ratings are the current results up to time of post reading. Inevitably, though, you’re going to have some bad ratings and that’s not good to show. Besides, why influence the readers before they read your post? And don’t say it doesn’t, because it most certainly does! Let them judge your work on neutral grounds. Also, if they quickly see it’s not what they’re looking for, a few might just click a poor rating before leaving, even though it has nothing to do with the quality of your work but was maybe the fault of the search terms they used and/or the search engine returning results. The ratings on top also really looks awkward in some WordPress templates, just kind of floating around. Finally, by the time readers have gotten to your post, they have given you the “page view” for your stats. Make them at least scroll through the post to judge it. Having ratings below the post a good way to both, get some fair judgment and make those with bad intentions work a bit for their malice. Ratings below the post will get fewer responses, but better quality responses.
RATINGS BELOW POST

Rate Posts, Pages or Comments?
For me, rating posts is a no-brainer. That’s what I really want to get feedback on. Blogs are mostly composed of posts, not pages, for the most part so if you want feedback for your blog, post feedback is the way to go. Pages are sometimes more static, listing things or providing guidance, and maybe not as exciting. However, you may want to assess their value as a resource. If this were true , you might consider not only consider enabling ratings, but also a star system since level of quality is important here. And yes, you can enable different systems for different features of your blog. It’s just too bad you can’t do that for separate posts like having a choice with each post because some may well could use one rating system rather than another. Finally, for Comments, you can enable ratings to have others judge what others say or what you say in return. For “arguments” or “debates” brewing, this might be a good way to get additional feedback to those who take the time to leave comments. Again, I see the text media news sites do this and I will trust them on it.
RATE ALL

Size of ratings system on your post?
Small can be elegant, yes, but if you want to get people’s attention in hopes they’ll give feedback, large is the way to go. It’s not that large, to be honest with you. And at the end, with all the other clutter like tags and categories, if you have those on your blog, large will only help the rating system stand out.
LARGE SIZE

Font choice, size, colour and weight?
The default seems to be Interpret. I have never heard of that font but I do know Verdana has been around for a long time so just about every computer has it. It’s a nice, crisp, wide font your reader’s computer won’t likely substitute with another to guarantee they will see it as you will see it. The width of Verdana will help make your rating system more visible. Add some colour to it to get attention, though I went with blue rather than red in which my links all appear to differentiate it. I chose #0000ff blue. That’s a number sign, four zeroes and two f, which makes a hexadecimal code for the blue headers you see on this post. I don’t recommend italics because they don’t appear “smooth” on some machines. As for size, again, put some control to it. I choose 12 px (pixels) because that is about the size of the blog post body text. I would say that’s the best guideline for choosing a size. Choose one and view it in your blog. Then change it if you need to. All those font features might be a bit garish for some but experiment and choose as you like it.
VERDANA, 12 px, 0000ff BLUE and BOLD TEXT

Alignment?
Your blog probably reads from the left and is aligned at least to the left. Even justified alignment has a straight left margin. For all the fanciful centre alignment and all, left is easiest to read.
LEFT ALIGNMENT

Line Height
General rule of design is at least 125% of your font size. So for me, at 12 px text size (see above), the default of 16 px is fine. I don’t need to be picky for 15 px to be exact. A little more “white space” never hurts, especially if you want to make something stand out.
16px but really, AT LEAST 125% OF FONT SIZE

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 6.5

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