Gravatar: What Is It, Why, When and How Should You Be Using It

By Dmytro Spilka

Sep 9, 2017

What's Gravatar And Why Should You use It

If you are a frequent user of WordPress, you may have come across the term Gravatar. You may have spotted it on the User Profile page in the administration section. It is a popular online service that lets people use the same avatar across many different websites. In addition to being integrated into WordPress, Gravatar is used by thousands of discussion forums, websites and content management systems.

If you are a bit intrigued about Gravatar and wondering why people use them — this article is for you! We will delve into the world of Gravatar, explaining how it works, why users love it, how it can be used to help your business and much more.

Table of Contents

What is a Gravatar?

To understand what a Gravatar is, you have to first understand what an avatar is. An avatar is a graphical representation of a person in a virtual environment. This could be a photograph, a cartoon, an illustration or a 3D model. Avatars are a way for users to customise their online profiles and differentiate themselves from everyone else.

Avatars are used everywhere online. Most people using Twitter, Google+, Facebook and other social media websites will have an avatar associated with their accounts. They are often used in content management systems, forums and blogs like WordPress. 

Here are a couple of examples of what an avatar looks like:

Barack Obama on Instagram

Barack Obama On Instagram

Barack Obama on Twitter

Barack Obama on Twitter

Barack Obama on Facebook

Barack Obama on Facebook

Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to use avatars online. The main reasons why include:

1. Managing avatars across multiple websites is difficult (unless you’re a former US President):

Most Internet users signup to dozens of forums, blogs and social media platforms. Adding avatars to all of these different websites can be very time-consuming. Users often end up with different avatars on different sites. 

Some websites don’t allow avatars above a certain size, so users have to create multiple avatars of different dimensions. When a user wants to change their avatar, they have to visit each site and change their avatar multiple times.

2. Not all websites allow users to upload their avatars

Some websites don’t want to store the avatars of users on their servers, so they remove the functionality for adding them. This means user accounts all have the same appearance, which can be make the website less user-friendly.

3. It is difficult to identify users across different websites

When a user has a different avatar on each website they use, it can be difficult for other people to know who they really are. Having the same avatar across all sites helps to confirm a person’s identity and leads to better user interactions. Maintaining identity across different websites is particularly important for business seeking to build brand awareness.

Hence, Gravatar was created to solve these problems! 

Gravatar stands for Globally Recognised Avatar. It is a web service that allows users to upload a personal online avatar and associate it with their email address. The avatar that is uploaded to the Gravatar website is then called a Gravatar. 

The way it works is quite simple:

  • The user signs up to Gravatar and uploads their avatar
  • They then visit a website and create an account or post a comment as they normally would
  • If the website has integrated the Gravatar service, it will make a call to the Gravatar service, asking if there is a Gravatar user with that email address
  • If the user is found, Gravatar will send a copy of the user’s Gravatar back to the website
  • The website places the Gravatar on the user’s profile, forum post or comment

The user doesn’t have to upload their avatar to the site where they created a new account or made a post, it is all done for them. The website owner doesn’t have to process the user’s avatar either — it gets downloaded directly from Gravatar!

A Gravatar can be used on profile pages, comments, social media accounts, forum posts and much more.

Why should you use a Gravatar?

The main reasons why you should use Gravatar include:

  • It is much more convenient: It is much easier to use an avatar on a website if when using Gravatar. You won’t have to find and upload your avatar every time you join a new website or make a comment. It is all handled by Gravatar. Modifying your avatar is also much easier because you only have to change it in one location.
  • Businesses can ensure uniform branding: Business owners can use the same Gravatar on all of their social media accounts, forum postings and comments. This makes it easy for users to recognise the businesses brand on multiple platforms.
  • You can have interactions with other people across multiple platforms: Having the same Gravatar on multiple platforms makes users more recognisable. Other people can identify them easily and carry on conversations across different platforms. 
  • Reputation and trust can be transferred across different platforms: Maintaining your identity across multiple platforms allows you to transfer the trust and authority you have established elsewhere. For example, you may frequently post on a web forum that discusses cars. You may have established a reputation as being quite knowledgeable and friendly. When people see your Gravatar on another platform, they will recognise it is you and place more credence in your Tweet, comment or article.
  • People are more likely to believe a comment or post with a Gravatar: When a person reads a comment left by a user with a blank avatar, they are less likely to believe what the user wrote. If you have a recognisable Gravatar attached to your opinions, the credibility of your opinions increases.
  • You can increase traffic to your website: If you regularly post on social media and in discussion forums, users will start clicking on your Gravatar to learn more about who you are. This can result in increased traffic for your website.

How do you get your own Gravatar?

Getting a Gravatar is simple!

1. Sign up for an account

Visit the Gravatar website and click on the Sign In button.

Signing In To Gravatar

2. Sign-in

Sign-in using your credentials or signup for a new account (it’s free).

Log-in To Gravatar with WordPress Account

Once you have logged in, you will have to approve Gravatar to use your account.

Approve Gravatar Account

3. Upload your first Gravatar

After you have approved Gravatar to use your WordPress credentials, you can upload your Gravatar. Start by clicking the link highlighted in the image below.

Configuring Gravatar

You will be presented with four options:

  • Upload new: Create a new Gravatar from an image you have on your computer.
  • From URL: Add a new Gravatar by pasting its URL
  • Past uploads: View the previous Gravatars you have upload
  • From webcam: Take a webcam picture of yourself for your Gravatar.

Click on Upload new to add your new first Gravatar. You can upload jpeg, gif, png, bmp or svg files.

Uploading an avatar to gravatar

On the next page, click Choose File then locate the image you want to use as a Gravatar. After you have selected it, click Next.

Upload an image to gravatar

On the following pages, you can Crop your image and set the classification for your image.

Crop an image in gravatar 

Once you crop your image, select an appropriate rating.

Choosing rating for a gravatar image

4. Manage your Gravatars

You will be redirected to the Manage Gravatars page. You can use this page to add more Gravatars, change the classifications of your Gravatars and delete Gravatars.

Managing gravatars

5. Try your Gravatar out!

Your new Gravatar will now appear when you make a comment or create an account at any Gravatar-enabled website.  All you have to do is register with the website using the email address you associated with your Gravatar account.

How do you integrate Gravatar into your website?

If you are using, you will be happy to learn that Gravatar functionality is already included in your website. When a user signs up with the email they registered on Gravatar, their Gravatar will automatically appear. The places where user Gravatars are displayed on your website will depend on your theme. Generally, they will be shown on the user and author profiles, comments and blog posts.

If you have a website on another platform, a programmer may have to integrate Gravatar functionality for you. Gravatar provides many code samples and plugins on their website. Other popular content management systems like Drupal and Joomla also have some easy-to-install Gravatar plugins.

Thanks for reading What’s Gravatar and Why Should You Be Using It! For more useful articles, subscribe to the blog or follow us on social media.

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