Updated on May 26, 2023
Gravatar is a service for displaying avatars on the Internet. If you're a user, you can create a profile picture that follows you to other websites. It will automatically show your profile picture on any website utilizing Gravatar.
We'll go over everything you need to know about Gravatar in this post, with a particular emphasis on WordPress. Despite that, anyone can benefit from this article - we will get into WordPress at the end!
This post includes:
Gravatar allows you to create a unique user avatar that you can use on various websites across the Internet. Alternatively, if you have a website, Gravatar makes it simple to display unique avatars for all your users.
Gravatar is a portmanteau for Globally Recognized Avatar. The idea is that a person can upload an avatar to one location (the Gravatar website) and then have that avatar recognized by other websites automatically.
The basic process works like this:
Gravatar comes from a company called Automattic, which is the same company behind WordPress.com. It is owned by Matt Mullenweg, one of the co-founders of the open-source WordPress software (which differs from WordPress.com). Because of this, Gravatar is built into WordPress, though many other sites and services use it.
Some examples of websites or services which use Gravatar are WordPress, as we mentioned previously, Github, Stack Overflow, Atlassian, Disqus, and Slack, among many others.
Creating your own Gravatar image is easy and 100% free. Here's how to do it:
Go to the Gravatar website and click the Create your Gravatar button:
You'll then be prompted to either:
And that's it! You're all done. If you want, you can repeat the process to add more avatars. Gravatar also lets you set up some profile information in the My Profile tab. However, you shouldn't feel compelled to fill any of this out, as most people will see your avatar picture.
The nice thing about Gravatar is that you don't need to do anything special to use it. All you need to do is use the email address associated with your Gravatar account.
As long as:
Then your avatar image should show up automatically.
If you want to associate multiple email addresses with your avatars, you can add new email addresses from your Gravatar dashboard.
You'll need to click the link in the activation email that Gravatar sends your new email address to make it live.
If you want to look up your Gravatar image (or someone else's), the Gravatar profile search feature can help. It lets you look up someone's profile picture by entering their email address.
To use this feature:
You'll then see the different profile picture options.
Now, let's start moving into the WordPress-specific Gravatar tips for WordPress web admins. While Gravatar makes it easy to have actual profile pictures on WordPress, there are two potential issues:
Regarding user experience, the issue is that visitors can't change their profile pictures from your WordPress site. Instead, they have to do it from the Gravatar website. That isn't a big deal in your comments section. If you allow user registration, for example (say, for a membership site or an online course), it would not be convenient to make your users go to another site to change their pictures.
In terms of performance, there are two potential issues:
So – let's go over some ways to fix those issues using free plugins.
One option to improve Gravatar performance is to cache the Gravatar images on your local server. That means your site will pull in the picture from Gravatar and save it on your server. That way, the file will load from your own server, which gives you more control over performance (though it also means you'll need to use your own server's bandwidth to load the images).
Here are a couple of options for plugins that offer Gravatar cache, as well as a few other functionalities:
If you want to improve performance further, you can completely disable Gravatar. Of course, this means that your site won't have any profile pictures in the comments section or for registered users (though we will share a way to fix this in the next section).
What if you disable Gravatar on your WordPress site, but you still want to have user profile pictures? Plugins can help with that as well. Specifically, plugins that let users choose their own avatars by uploading custom images.
Here are a couple of popular options:
Gravatar makes it easy to set up user avatar pictures:
If you create your website with WordPress, WordPress will use Gravatar images for comments and user profiles by default. However, you can find lots of Gravatar WordPress plugins to adjust this.
In conclusion, Gravatar is a quick and straightforward solution to create an avatar that can be used on multiple websites simultaneously. It will also allow the visitors to your website to use their avatars without having to create a new one specifically for your website.
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