This post was sparked by a question I received from a client who is working his way through Site Setup Kit, my complete guide to building a unique website. Check out Site Setup Kit today.
Have you ever wondered why some blog comments show up with pictures of their authors, while others have generic “mystery mannequin” icons or geometric shapes?
If you’d like a picture of your choosing to show up when you comment on a blog, you need a Gravatar.
Gravatar, which sounds like a Soviet-era science-fiction robot but is really short for Globally Recognized Avatar, is a free service provided by the same people who created WordPress.
In fact, if you have a WordPress.com account for any reason (such as using the Akismet spam-protection plugin), that same username and password will log you into Gravatar.com.
How to sign up for your own Gravatar
If you don’t have a Gravatar.com or WordPress.com account, signing up is incredibly easy. On the Gravatar sign-up page, just enter your email address.
You’ll get a confirmation email with a link to activate your account. Once your account is active, you can upload a photo of your choice, which will then be associated with that email address.
Every time you use that email address to comment on a blog that’s Gravatar-enabled, your chosen image will automagically appear next to your comment. And you can change that image any time you want by logging into your Gravatar account and changing your profile picture.
If you use more than one email address, the service allows you to add multiple email addresses and associate a different image with each one.
You can optionally add more information to your profile, such as a brief bio statement, geographic location, and links to your website and social media profiles like Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Other built-in uses for Gravatars
Those handy little icons are used for more than just blog comments.
For instance, all WordPress sites use Gravatars for their internal User profiles. If you have a profile picture associated with the email address you use to administer your own WordPress site, you’ll see a tiny version of that image on the right side of your admin bar (right next to where WordPress greets you with “Howdy, [display name]“), and next to your username on the Users –> All Users screen.
Another nice use of Gravatars is in the Genesis User Profile widget, which is available to you in the Appearance –> Widgets screen if your WordPress site uses the Genesis Framework or any Genesis child theme (my site, for instance, is running on Prose, the only Genesis child theme with design controls — did I mention that Site Setup Kit teaches you exactly how to use those controls to create a site that’s 100% unique?).
This widget allows you to create and customize an About Me box in your sidebar, and the profile picture it uses comes straight from Gravatar.
Turbo-charge your Gravatars
If you use the Jetpack plugin, you can enable a function called Gravatar Hovercards. With that function turned on, hovering your cursor over the profile picture of one of your blog commenters will display that person’s public Gravatar profile.
My site is using this feature right now, so if you get yourself a Gravatar, come leave a comment and try out the Hovercard function for yourself!