Avatars – graphical representations of computer users – help to define a person’s online identity. WordPress calls them Globally Recognized Avatars (or ‘Gravatars’), and these icons (along with user names) identify the authors of posts and comments on blogs and forums. Gravatars are small, yet powerful, and can offer opportunities for website owners that are often overlooked.
While Gravatars may not seem hugely important, they can actually play an important role in driving traffic to your site and encouraging people to keep returning. They also help to forge relationships between you and your users, and solidify your brand.
In this article, we’ll reveal four reasons why Gravatars are important for both you and your visitors. We’ll also explain how to enable them on your website, and also how to create a custom default Gravatar for visitors who don’t yet have one activated.
What Is an Avatar?
Avatars have long been utilized to portray users online. Depending on the medium, they might be an image or a 3D representation of the user. Avatars have evolved over time, and the term has come to have many meanings within the online world. One form of an avatar – the one used within WordPress – is called a Gravatar.
What Is a Gravatar?
The difference between an avatar and a Gravatar is the scope of recognition. Typically, new avatars are created for different sites and forums. However, with a Gravatar, the same representation accompanies you whenever you go to different sites. You simply sign up with Gravatar, provide them with an image, and that’s it! For there, every time you post or comment on a WordPress website that has Gravatars enabled, your icon will appear alongside the content. Here’s an example of Gravatars in action on our blog:
4 Reasons to Create a Gravatar for You and Your Website’s Visitors
Now you know what Gravatars are, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having them enabled on your website.
1. You Can Create Familiarity and Forge Trust
Gravatars can help to add a personal touch to your website. In an age where online anonymity is so prevalent, it’s nice to be able to actually put a face to a name. Short of meeting face to face, getting a visual of who you are talking to can make interactions much more human. People are also more likely to remember and recognize an image than a name.
2. A Gravatar Can Be an Additional Marketing Element for Your Brand
Once you activate your Gravatar it will begin to show up all over your site. Depending on your theme and settings, you could see it on every post and on any comments you make. Although it’s small, this frequency of exposure makes your Gravatar a key element in your branding efforts. Therefore, it’s important to put some thought into the Gravatar image that you choose.
3. A Gravatar Can Help Build a Sense of Community
As people start to become familiar with you and other regular commenters, you begin to build a sense of community. Visitors will likely recognize each other, giving them more inclination to interact. As we’ve discovered with social media, people are drawn to being part of a community – especially if they’ve found like-minded people to discuss their interests with.
4. You Can Increase Your Exposure On Other Websites
Aside from having your Gravatar show up on your site, you can also increase your exposure by having it appear on other sites as well. People will recognize you and your brand when you comment on other websites, helping you to gain traffic back to your site, and ultimately helping to expand your community and your reach. Other site owners may also be more inclined to interact with your Gravatar-enabled website for the same reason of increased exposure.
How to Activate Gravatars on Your WordPress Website
Fortunately, you can achieve all of the benefits of Gravatars with very little effort. For a start, you don’t have to manage user accounts in order for Gravatars to show up – they’re built into WordPress, so you don’t even need a plugin.
Enabling Gravatars on your site is straightforward. Navigate to your WordPress dashboard, find the Settings screen, and select Discussion. On the next screen, scroll down to the Avatars section:
To activate Gravatars, check the Show Avatars box to enable them for your comments sections. There are other options to select, such as deciding whether you want user profiles to appear when you mouse over a Gravatar. There’s also a Maximum Rating option. Gravatar enables users to rate their image as appropriate for certain audiences. The default setting is G — Suitable for all audiences, but remember that images are self-rated by users, so they may not be completely reliable.
What if Visitors Don’t Have a Gravatar?
Of course, not everyone has a Gravatar – some may not be WordPress users, or they may wish to remain anonymous. If visitors don’t have their own Gravatar activated, a default image will appear beside their name. There are several defaults to choose from:
However, you don’t have to go with one of these options. Instead you can change to a custom default image that fits your branding. If you’re comfortable customizing your theme files you can manually add your own custom default avatar. That being said, if you’d prefer to use a plugin, WP User Avatar is a quick and easy option.
WP User Avatar (Free)
This plugin enables you to use any photo in your media library as your custom avatar. Once you’ve installed and activate the plugin, head back to the Settings screen in your WordPress dashboard:
In the Default Avatar section, select WP User Avatar and click on Choose Image, which will prompt you to select one either from your media library, or alternatively upload an image from your computer.
This plugin does have a premium version priced at $20, which offers additional features such as giving users the option to set up a custom avatar for your site. While this may be suitable for some sites, it does negate some of the benefits of the Gravatar system we mentioned earlier.
Due to its unsexy nature, it’s easy to overlook the potential benefits that the Gravatar has to offer. These icons might not seem to be a major factor when building your website; however, they have a myriad of potential benefits when it comes to making your mark and increasing the traffic you receive.
In this article, we’ve offered up four great reasons to make sure you and your visitors have Gravatars enabled. Let’s recap them quickly:
- You can create familiarity and forge trust.
- A Gravatar can be an additional marketing element for your brand.
- It can help build a sense of community.
- You can increase your exposure on other websites.
Are Gravatars going to be crucial for your website? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!