Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
Not interested in additional functionalities (at the time) – with the exception of a reaction module – I decided to use the native comment form.
Many articles sing the praises of reaction tools to analyze your audience engagement. Indeed, one-click reactions are a great way to get immediate feedback. In particular, you can use the notorious Like button to gauge what readers enjoy and steer your content in that direction. However, as explained in Customizing the WordPress comment form, I was not interested in those for analytic purposes. Instead, I strive for my comment section to be as useful and informative as possible for my audience. Accordingly, I wanted to spare my readers from going through the pleasing, yet uninformative, “Thank you for this great post” kind of comments.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome such nice remarks. However, how agreeable they are for the post’s author (i.e. me), they might be annoying for visitors going through the comment section in search for meaningful information on a specific topic. Therefore, to allow my readers to share their reactions while keeping my comment section for constructive (either positive or negative) criticism, I decided to implement – in addition to the default WordPress comment system – a reaction tool. Besides, such tool can be an easy (and anonymous) way for them to leave a quick feedback (i.e. without the hassle of writing a full textual comment). Here begins my quest for a reaction plugin!
So many plugins, so few chosen ones
While, at the beginning, I was not looking for something specific, I ended up with a typical profile in mind (see below). To make a long story short, I went through several plugins – each with their own unique feature sets, dashboards and customization options – before to decide on one that was matching this desired profile. It is worth mentioning that what sounds appealing to me may not be what you are looking for. In other words, this is not a review about reaction plugins.
As you can imagine, my first idea was evolving around the Like button – a well-known way for people to show their appreciation. An easy way to implement such a button would have been through the Likes module of Jetpack. Now, even though this feature is highly popular – mentioning no name – I had one problem with such an oriented option: what if people don’t like my post? Therefore, I refocused my search on plugins that would offer a Dislike button as well.
Comments Like Dislike – Like Button Rating – WP ULike – Everest Comment Rating
Back then (see earlier comment about asynchrony), the Comments Like Dislike plugin offered only few options and customizations (with 4 pre-built templates). Yet, an interesting feature was the possibility to configure the color of the available icons, or even better, to add your own custom icons. Its simplicity and price (i.e. free) was making it a straightforward option. The Like Button Rating plugin had (and still has) a lot more features (including basic statistics), and what is more it is multisite compatible. However, this freemium was allowing only 1 button per page (okay) and 500 buttons per website (not so bad, but still…). In addition, it was storing the data in the LikeBtn system; something I was not fond of. The WP ULike plugin was (and still is) another great alternative with many customization options and comprehensive statistic tools. Interestingly, it stated,
visitors do not have to register or log in to use the Like Button; a requirement given my configuration (see Network Settings).
Going through the above plugins, I realized that having a Boolean type of answer was quite limited. What about the “Thank you for this post” reactions? I needed something more granular. First, I thought of a rating system (such functionality being included in the Everest Comment Rating plugin), but quickly abandoned the idea – not suitable either. I even considered the possibility of using a plugin that would completely overhaul the WordPress default comment system (e.g. wpDiscuz or Vuukle Audience Ecosystem1). Even though I didn’t want to go in that direction (see Customizing the WordPress comment form), the Vuukle option was appealing given their implementation (among other features) of a reaction bar with emoji.
It is easy to spot the influence of the social media, which I will not name, on the booming reactions plugins market (i.e. shortly after the revamp of their Like button with the introduction of the so-called Reactions). The nameless social media states that Reactions, which should be used as a
quick and easy way to express how you feel, are not emoji. Yet, they use emoji to depict the following collection of Reactions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry.
- A small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion.
Reactions plugins are nothing but the implementation of this feature into WordPress. They provide your visitors with a fun way, i.e. with the use of emoji, to indicate how they feel about your content. Admittedly, I would be curious to know whether you laugh, cry (I hope not) or even get angry when reading my posts; yet, I had something else in mind when I started searching for a reaction plugin. As already explained, I was looking for a system for my readers to share their quick comments (e.g. “Thank you”, “Great post” and the like) somewhere else than in the comment section.
Reactions – DW Reactions – Emojics – Post And Page Reactions – MyEffecto
Even though I rejected the idea of these reactions plugins, some of their features helped me elucidate the typical profile I was looking for. First, I thought of going for a plugin that would allow personalizing the name for each emoji. Of course, it would be necessary to configure the icons accordingly. However, there was an ever better alternative: Reactions and MyEffecto are offering the possibility to choose between emoji icons and text buttons. That was it. I was looking for a reaction plugin with text buttons – not with emoji! Of note, some plugins also offer analytic features. However, given my reluctance to create an account – a necessary step to use such plugins – I didn’t add analytics to my desired profile. Another important consideration was multisite compatibility. Last, but not least, it had better be up to date!
Surprisingly, many articles claim
emoji are instantly recognizable; however,
research has shown that emoji are often misunderstood2. Granted, some plugins display the associated feelings (e.g. Sad) – either as a tooltip or as text below the emoji itself. In keeping with this idea, they may allow you to change the text (for instance, “Funny” might be more intelligible than “Haha”). In fact, you can even customize the icons themselves.
After days of dither, I finally knew what I was looking for. However, the quest was not over. Fortunately, I came across a WPBeginner article about a potential candidate: the Reaction Buttons plugin3 (by Jakob Lenfers).
This addon adds buttons below your posts (or somewhere else) to make it easy to get reactions to the post, but without the hassle of writing a whole comment.Jakob Lenfers
Obviously, the buttons are configurable (how many, what label, their look), as does the tagline (i.e. text above the reaction buttons). You can also choose the position of the buttons (above or after the post), and whether you want the current numbers of reactions to be display only after the vote. You can even decide to display the buttons on a per post basis. This plugin could have been the chosen one…
React & Share
… but was not multisite compatible4. Happily, it didn’t take me long to find a better – multisite compatible – alternative, namely React & Share – Customizable Reactions Buttons.
Get feedback with customizable reaction buttons that allow your readers to give feedback with one anonymous click.Dekko
This freemium plugin was looking perfect. Icing on the cake, it was also coming with Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other share buttons (that appear after reacting). Obviously, the pro features – analytics, in particular – were not accessible in the free version, but this was not a problem. Actually, the only “cost” (of the free version) was the
Powered by React & Share branding. Not a problem either. I decided to go for it…
A three step process?
After installing the plugin and activating it on this blog only (see Network Admin Plugins), I was brought to the plugin’s configuration screen:
- Choose your reaction buttons
- Enter your API key here
I clicked on the Start here button (to begin the first step). This redirected me to their getreactionbuttons.com page. Getting the buttons was a three-step process.
1. Choose style
Among the available option, I opted for “Opinions” as it was a perfect match:
There were many customizations available; still, I kept most of the default settings, the above preview being almost ideal. For instance, I decided to keep the heading
What do you think?, but to change the text of the last button to “Thank you”. Similarly, I didn’t modify the overall look of the button (i.e. keeping Hover vs. Button or Flat) nor the count position (i.e. keeping Over vs. Under, On the side or Hidden). I did however choose “always show” the text (instead of on hover only) and the option to hide the icons (alternatives: small or large).
Concerning the share options, I kept the four default ones (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn); i.e. I didn’t add Pinterest, Google+, Telegram, Messenger and Email.
Last, but not least, I choose colors matching my blog: the nameless blue (see Which header media for this blog?) and a tint color variation (i.e. #c1cdef) for the hover.
I thought I would receive the API key on the last screen, but instead there was a big Create an account button. WTF!
You might remember that one of the reasons for rejecting some other plugins was the necessity to create an account to use them.
I thought that the free version of this plugin didn’t require any registration. I contacted React & Share via their chat to get an explanation. Timo indeed confirmed,
it works without registering. However, he explained me that customization requires registration. What a bummer!
I could have stopped here. Indeed, the non-customized buttons would have been the same emoji reactions I rejected earlier: Like, Love, Joy, Surprised, Sad and Angry. Thanks, but no thanks! However, the professional look of the customized buttons was probably better than what I could have obtained with other plugins. Therefore, I reconciled myself to create an account with React & Share.
Finalizing the installation
To sign up for their free plan, I had to provide an e-mail address, a password and my blog URL . Nothing out of the ordinary! After choosing WordPress (as the method to install the reactions buttons), I received the API key. Back to my WordPress dashboard, I could copy/paste the key, finalizing the “2. Enter your API key here” step. I clicked on Save Changes. And voilà:
To be continued…
1 Also known as “Vuukle Comments, Reactions, Share Bar, Revenue”. ^
2 See this Wikipedia article. ^
3 Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the Reaction Buttons plugin is no longer supported by Jakob Lenfers. ^
4 In fact, this would not have been an issue (spoiler), but the out of date3 issue is a more serious concern! It was not back then, though. ^