It might come as a surprise that Disqus is one of the most widely used digital products on the planet. Don't believe me? Well, this tiny widget generates (per month) 2.5m+ comments, 2.5 billion impressions, and 20 million logged in members, despite usually being tucked away at the bottom of website’s blogs. And millions of websites use Disqus, despite limited adoption on popular web design tools with native commenting functionality, like Wordpress & Wix. Who said comment sections were a relic of the web?
One tool that doesn’t offer a native commenting system is Webflow. As the market leader, it’s understandable that Disqus is the go to solution for enabling comments on a Webflow site. And many Webflow users even persevere through the process of adapting code in order to ensure comments are unique to CMS pages.
One of the main reasons people choose to build their site with Webflow Is because of it’s design flexibility, so embedding a tool with limited design customization like Disqus is a frequent trade-off for enabling commenting. Yet, this is just the beginning of trade-offs or negative effects Disqus can have on Webflow sites.
So in this article, I am going to dive into the reasons why you should avoid Disqus on your Webflow website, and also explore an alternative that has emerged over the last year.
⚠️ Please note, this article is entirely my opinion and based on my own experience & research.⚠️
General downsides to Disqus
Disqus slows down Webflow sites
This point can easily be illustrated through a quick comparison of a site with Disqus & the same one without:
If we check the browser console, Disqus needs to load 34 files in order to run. In my opinion, that is egregious for a comment section. As you can see from the waterfall below, many of these external requests are also dependent on the other being completed, which is a major factor for the long load times.
Of course, there are varying opinions on how much Google’s algorithm weighs page speed in 2023, but it’s no doubt still a factor. Long load times have also been proven to harm the user experience of sites and increase bounce rate, which are factors that will directly harm SEO & conversion.
Disqus & privacy
You could probably write a novel about this topic, but I will try to keep it short. At first glance, Disqus might seem like a company that makes their money off subscriptions. What many people don’t know is that Disqus is owned by a marketing company called Zeta Global, which means there might mean there is more than meets the eye to their business model.
The Hidden Costs of the "Free" plan - Ads!
One major reason Disqus is so widely used, is because of their free plan that includes unlimited pageviews. But the one catch of the free plan is that you need to display ads and affiliate links in your comment section. No ads are conducive to a good user experience, but the ones displayed by Disqus are often the worst of the worst. You know the types I’m talking about: “You won’t believe what these 90s stars look like now”; “29 photos taken before shocking deaths”, etc.
What’s even more shocking is what’s going on in the background to simply display these ads. Below are some of the external requests Disqus is making on Bloody Disgusting (one the slowest site I’ve ever visited might I add).
As you can, see there are requests to mysterious 3rd party ad networks with multiple real time bid requests happening in the background. This isn’t just limited to websites with a free subscription, as I also noticed the following ad network request on asite with no Disqus ads.
Past privacy infractions
Disqus has faced fines in the past over un-authorized tracking of user data, most recently a $3 million dollar fine in Norway. While they may have made improvements to rectify this in the EU, I am not so convinced non-EU visitors have this level of control over their data on pages with Disqus embedded. For example, on my account the following tracking setting was switched on by default and buried away in the advanced settings - it makes me wonder, how many Disqus users unknowingly have this setting switched on.
vi. Sensitive Personal We do not intentionally collect any personal data about your race or ethnicity, religious or philosophical beliefs, sex life, sexual orientation, political opinions, trade union membership, information about your health or genetic or biometric data, or information about criminal convictions and offences. However, if you make comments using the Service that include such data about yourself it will be publicly available and may be processed by Disqus or others.
I think the question you have to ask, is would I like to my website’s audience to be potentially tracked by 3rd party ad companies I don’t know? If the answer is no, be wary of Disqus.
Webflow specific downsides of Disqus
Disqus usually looks bleh & generic on Webflow sites
This one is very subjective, but when Disqus is embedded, it sticks out like a sore thumb on well designed Webflow sites. This is because it’s only possible to customize some aspects of their widget’s appearance through a custom CSS feature which is only included with their $99 pro plan. Despite this, there is no possibility to customize the layout and interactivity of the comment section and form.
One of the main reasons people develop sites with Webflow is its design flexibility, so the fact that Disqus offers little customization can result in your comment section being inconsistent with the design and aesthetic of the rest of your site, thus affecting your user experience.
Members are registered to Disqus instead of your site
As a site owner, who would you prefer to have ownership of your audience: you or Disqus? Well, if you are enabling member commenting through Disqus, you will not have access to user details like email. So there is no opportunity to monetize your audience through email marketing. In my opinion, this also limits your ability to create an authentic community around your audience. Disqus is a cross-site community with a dedicated userbase of commenters, so it’s almost as if you are embedding another community on your site.
What Disqus alternatives exist for Webflow?
Supersparks as a Webflow Disqus alternative
The good news is that Supersparks just released an alternative in June that addresses all of the pain points with Disqus described in this article. Full disclosure, this article is written by the founder of Supersparks. But we are confident we offer the best comment section for Webflow blogs for the following reasons:
Full design flexibility - Our app is built just for Webflow, which means users have full design control to make the comment form or comment section look however they want in the Webflow Designer. You can even add custom interactions like showing and hiding a reply form. To help illustrate this, here are some of the beautiful, custom comment sections some of our users have been able to create using our app.
Faster than Disqus - Our app simply makes one API call through AWS API Gateway. Since it’s not possible to retrieve user data from Webflow Memberships natively, our app does run a few additional open source scripts from Sygnal to retrieve this, which take milliseconds each. But unlike Disqus, our requests are not to multiple mysterious 3rd party sources
No advertisements - Our business model is subscriptions, so we do not sell your user data or occupy part of your website for ad revenue. We also offer a free plan for .webflow.io staging sites, which gives you as much time as needed to set up our app.
Member registration - Through our integrations with Webflow Memberships and Memberstack, you can limit commenting to users registered to your site. The last part is key. With Memberstack and Webflow Memberships, you have access to all of the user account details, which you can then leverage to build relationships with your audience and for marketing.
Reviews feature- If you were interested in using Disqus' star rating feature, Supersparks also offers a native reviews feature with star ratings.
Since Supersparks just launched, it still doesn’t offer some of the basic commenting features & settings Disqus does, like editing, upvoting, and rich text. But all of these features are on the roadmap! Like Disqus, Supersparks also takes under 2 minutes to implement.
Should I still add a comments section to my site in 2023?
Site owners often need to evaluate whether the pros of commenting outweigh the hassle of moderating trolls & spammers. But if you have an engaged, positive audience that you would like to connect with further, comment sections can have massive SEO & audience engagement benefits, such as:
SEO - Increasing time spent on page, more content & keywords to rank for, and consistent updates to page (Google loves content updates).
Audience engagement - More content for your readers to read, inform ideas for future content based on questions / feedback, and creating a sense of community with & between your audience by creating, which results in higher retention.
Fortunately through Supersparks’ memberships and spam features, it’s very easy to filter our potential bad actors on your comment section.
Overall, Disqus is the market leader for a reason as they are a great general-purpose app for enabling commenting functionality on websites in minutes. But for Webflow sites, tools like Supersparks are a great option for gaining more control over your comment section in Webflow.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment below, and in the process test out the Supersparks app 👇.
About the author
Ian is the founder of Supersparks. He has used no-code to build his own side projects, MVPs for startups, and internal tools for SMEs. He is passionate about inspiring no-coders to do the unthinkable and start their own tech ventures.
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Enable user generated content on Webflow!
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