A Breakdown of How Reddit’s UX Drives Discussion

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We all know that keeping your users engaged is essential. It is literally the difference between them coming back to you or moving to your competitors. However, the devil is always in the details. Discovering what makes your users tick can feel like reading tea leaves.

Historically, blog comments have been the way to go. More recently, websites are forgoing comments. Conversations have been moving off site thanks to the emergence of social media. Users are moving to websites like Reddit to share and discuss the content that they enjoy.

At first glance, Reddit might not seem like much. It looks like any other news site. There are many blogs with a sleeker feel and more professional graphics. The secret lies with the UX tactics they employ.

Ease of Participation on Reddit

If you want more people to post on your website, make it easy. Reddit is one of the easiest websites to participate in. Registering for an account requires only a username, password, and email. You can comment or post immediately after registering.

In comparison, many blogs require multiple fields for a user to fill out before allowing them to comment. It’s also common to require email confirmation. This can be very frustrating and serve as a major road block when it comes to starting a conversation.

Even worse, a lot of blogs send new comments to a submission queue. Even after submitting a comment, it might not show up until an admin approves it.

Think of it like this: Every field listed on your post form has a negative impact on UX. Social login buttons are frequently used to counteract this. This could be a double edged sword. Many users don’t want to connect their social profile to their blog comments. Allowing for more anonymity can foster more engagement. Anonymous users are also more likely to cause trouble. Ultimately, there needs to be a balance.

Form on Reddit

There’s not 10 fields for your first name, last name, business, etc. It’s simple and not at all overwhelming.

Compact and Intuitive Styling

While it’s nice to have a sleek and fresh design, it’s not always essential or even good. Some designers who see Reddit’s UI want to scrap it all and start from scratch. In fact, there are plenty of reskinned versions of Reddit out there. Regardless, the main website hasn’t had a major overhaul.

UI is an important part of UX but functionality and intuitive design is essential. Reddit is bare bones, but you’ll notice that it loads very fast in comparison to other websites. It’s striped down interface contains less of the bulky JavaScript effects and styling that can lead to poor performance.

Think about this: 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load (Kissmetric). All of the fancy external plugins your website may use have a hidden price. This is why it is important to choose your tools wisely.

If you use Disqus on your website, you’re looking at approximately 4.5 seconds to load the comment section (not to mention numerous tracking scripts). In that time, a user might begin to question if they wanted to write a comment in the first place.

Likewise, if your design is not intuitive, users might get frustrated and leave. Innovation isn’t always a good thing. It’s good to be unique but not to the point where it’s difficult to figure out how to use it. Users intuitively scroll to the bottom of the page to see comments. Threaded discussions are still the preferred way to organize the conversation when there’s a lot of content.

All of the popular forum and social media websites follow these rules (including YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit). When it comes to a good comment system, follow the standard.

Comments on Reddit

Reddit has a very linear layout. Threaded comments allows you to see who is replying to whom and they are also collapsible.

Upvotes and Downvotes

Gamification elements are hugely impactful psychological tricks that make contributing fun. It’s human nature to seek social approval and avoid social disproval. We also like to voice our opinions on everything. Voting fulfills this desire and it requires little effort for the user.

Social scoring is a simple blog comment UX hack that can improve engagement while also making moderation easier. Likes, dislikes, hearts, Upvotes, and Downvotes are all methods of social scoring used on the most popular social media websites.

Having a score tied to your value as a contributor, drives users to submit high quality content. Displaying all of the best comments first encourages better discussion. A high score marks an influential user. A low score can be an indication of a spammer or troll. This is the basic concept of Reddit’s “Karma”. At the end of the day, it’s nothing more than worthless internet points. Regardless, the social standing it represents, can be a powerful motivator.

User Run

The easiest way to make sure users love your blog, is to involve them in it. Reddit is practically a user run business. The content is user generated, Subreddits are user moderated, and user voting determines which posts are shown first. Not all of this is necessary to drive discussion on your website. In general, make sure you’re including your users in your design process.

This could mean polling your users on how they feel about the usability of your website. It could also simply involve prompting your users with a question to respond to at the end of every article you write. Encourage them to interact with you by reading their comments and responding. At least address their concerns about your website.

By including your users, you show them that they matter. When it comes to the dynamic between users and businesses, it’s all about serving your customers. You’re vying for their limited attention. Keeping a loop of feedback takes the guesswork out of how to improve your UX.

If something is bothering your users or confusing to them, you can make the necessary changes.

Other Helpful Features

Occasionally remind your users to come back and see all the awesome things you have. Reddit does this with a RSS feed option under your user preferences. This allows you to get all the new stuff delivered to you instead of having to remember to check the website.

Private RSS feed of Reddit

Private RSS feed of Reddit

Creating alternate means of consuming your content is a great way to accommodate your users’ viewing habits. A RSS feed is one option, but it might not be utilized depending on your user demographic (RSS is a great option for techies). Email subscriptions are always a reliable choice.

When it comes to your blog comments, a lot of users leave a comment and forget about it. Any replies or further comments are lost on them if they never come back to see them. To help continue the discussion, consider having a subscription or feed for your comment section. Here are two ideas:

  • Give users the option to subscribe to your comment thread and receive notification when a new comment is posted.
  • Give users the option to receive notifications if someone replies to their comment.

A user who leaves a comment is already very invested in the subject of your content. Any replies they get will draw them back to read what was said. They might have otherwise never returned. This gives your content a kind of second life thanks to the new user generated content.

Getting your users to return increases the chances that they’ll look around at all the other things you have to offer, gives them another chance to interact with you in social media, and keeps your website fresh on their mind.


Here’s something Redditors call a TLDR (too long didn’t read):

When you’re thinking of the key features you want in your blog comment system, think easy, think functional, and think fun. Get feedback from your users throughout the process. If you’re looking for further information, driving quality conversations are what we specialize in at Octoplasm.com.

Marissa Hudson

Marissa is a college student who is interested in everything technology related and building things. Currently, she is investigating products like comment systems for websites (Octoplasm.com). When not working on a project she hangs out on Reddit and moderates a Subreddit (/r/learntodraw).

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