Gravatars are global recognizable avatars, a hosted avatar service for profile pictures, usually used to pimp comment sections on blogs, but also on forums, author pages, and whatnot. We’re using Gravatars here on Devlounge, both for the author byline at the top of each post, and for commenters.
It used to be a poor web service, actually. Gravatar started out great, but then got massive issues, having a hard time serving all the avatars across the web. That all changed when Automattic bought the service, and with the hardware support of their servers, Gravatars are now delivered promptly and without hassle.
I’d say they have managed to get the Gravatar service to where and what it should be: A stable global avatar supplier, with support for multiple email addresses for the more schizophrenic among us, me included.
So why should you have a Gravatar associated with your email when commenting, and why should you have Gravatar support on your blog or forum?
Commenters: Get a Gravatar!
No matter if you comment to voice your opinion first and foremost, or if you have a more hidden agenda (like getting visitors to your site, or promote a product or service for that matter), you should have a Gravatar. Not only does it make your comment stand out more than the ones who doesn’t it’s also an opportunity to promote your brand, be it yourself or something else, a little.
You could use:
- a photo as a Gravatar, which will show off your face.
- a logo as a Gravatar, which will build brand recognition.
- a product picture as a Gravatar, which will build product awareness.
You could also have a humorous Gravatar, or a serious one, or whatever you’d like to gain attention to. Having a good and thought-through Gravatar is a way to be seen, and to get a message across, in addition to your actual comment.
For myself, I’ve got a photo. This is suitable for several reasons, one being to show my face and therefor imply that I’ve got nothing to hide. Or something like that.
Publishers: Add Gravatar Support!
Publishers should definitely add Gravatar support if they have any kind of user interaction on their site. As I said, user comments is a pretty common way to add Gravatar support, but you could also add it to a forum, a more elaborate guestbook, or similar.
So why would you want to do that? Well, first of all, it will be another push to get readers involved. Think about it, if a reader is aware of the benefits of having a Gravatar, and possibly using it to promote a brand of some kind, then that’s just another reason to leave a comment to your post. Not only does the reader get to write a comment, the Gravatar further adds to the free exposure. The same goes for forums, of course.
Another reason is to help you manage spam. Most spammers don’t bother to get Gravatars for their spambots, if any, and that actually makes it a little easier for you to manage your comments in moderation. No Gravatar doesn’t mean that the comment is spam, but it is way more likely than if there is a Gravatar. It works the other way around as well: If a commenter’s got a Gravatar, it’s probably not a spammer, at least not an automatic one.
Also, adding Gravatars makes the comments more pretty and alive. That in turn makes them all the more appealing to participate in.
How to Add a Gravatar
- Commenters, visit Gravatar.com and sign up. If you’re using several email addresses, you’ll want to add a Gravatar to each one. They could be the same, or completely different ones. It’s easy enough.
- WordPress publishers, there’s built-in Gravatar support in WordPress. Read up in the Codex, or use a plugin. Want to hack it? We’ve got a tutorial!
- Other publishers, you can add Gravatar support too. It’s pretty simple, read up on it here.
Are you using Gravatars on your blog or forum? Why, or why not?