Avatars are icons or graphical images used to represent a person. On WordPress, they are called gravatars and are primarily used to give people an image when they comment on websites. While they are integrated into WordPress, there are steps to take that will give your site a more professional look and increase visitor interaction.
Understanding avatars on WordPress
Gravatars stands for Globally Recognized Avatars as they give users an avatar they can use worldwide when commenting on any website that accepts them. The free Gravatar service is part of WordPress and anyone who signs up for a WordPress account for a WordPress hosted blog automatically has a Gravatar account.
Users simply upload an avatar image to their accounts and associate an email with the image. People can have different emails associated with different avatars in the same account. When posting, if they are not logged in, visitors can simply use the email address associated with the avatar they would like to use, and it will automatically be called up and displayed with their post.
Note that the authorship photos displayed in Google search results are called up from Gravatar accounts.
The advantages of gravatars
Without an image, posters are just blocks of text. However, with an image, they are much more likely to remember other posters, click on their profiles and respond. Furthermore, it gives posters a way of expressing themselves. All of this increases commenting and user interaction on websites.
In addition, as will be discussed later, webmasters can use gravatars to display their own profiles on their websites.
There is also the fact that avatars make sites look more appealing and professional.
Avatars are typically 80px by 80px and can include everything from drawings to company logos and pictures. Free online generators such as create avatar can be used, but Gravatar will automatically re-size images when they are uploaded.
Avatars are incorporated into WordPress by default, and you can change basics of how they look and function under Settings>Discussion as shown on the right. For example, the default Mystery Man, for those who do not have a gravatar, can be changed to something else. While this may be enough for many users, there are ways to further modify how they look and function through plugins and coding.
Gravatar plugins for WordPress
Greater functionality can be added with a number of different plugins.
Gravatar Signup Encouragement will increase the use of gravatars by commentators by showing a link to the signup page to those who do not have accounts.
Using the Custom Avatars for WordPress plugin enables webmasters to replace the default avatar for users who do not have a Gravatar account.
Avatar WordPress plugins for webmasters
Gravatar Profile Widget allows you to pull your gravatar image and some of your profile data into widgets to display in different areas of your site.
With Gravatar Widget, you can display a gravatar image with custom text.
Author Avatars List is a plugin that enables webmasters to list the avatars of blog users of a multiuser blog in the sidebar.
Post Avatar allows users to easily choose from a list of images to include in each post.
Using Add Local Avatar gives the webmaster the choice of having local private avatars or global avatars for the website users. This also enables users to use their Twitter avatar on the WordPress websites.
See gravatar for all “gravatar” tagged plugins for WordPress.
Using the WordPress commenting system is not the only option to encourage commenting. Facebook plugins for WordPress covers using Facebook and other possibilities. Regardless of what is used, commenting is important and steps should be taken to encourage it.