By default, WordPress will not display an avatar for your readers when they leave comments.
This might not be a problem if you’re using a third party commenting system, but if your WordPress blog takes advantage of the native method then something a bit more interesting than the “grey man” portrait will give your readers some added value.
After all, who wants to look at a grey man when there are so many alternatives available?
There is, after all, a considerable advantage in offering good avatars to your readers. Avatars are – by definition – representations of our online lives, and no one wants to look like a dull grey silhouette. Instead, take advantage of the various native WordPress options and a choice of great plugins to enable your readers to add interesting images to their accounts on your blog!
WordPress Default Avatars
By default the Mystery Man avatar is displayed in the WordPress comments, but natively the blog software offers several options that you can set.
Open Dashboard > Settings > Discussion and scroll down to the Avatars section where you will find the available options. You can toggle whether Avatars should be displayed, declare a suitability rating and also select the type of avatar you would like your users to have.
If your any of you users have a Gravatar account, meanwhile, this can be associated with their WordPress account, which will resulting in their Gravatar image appearing on your blog if this option is selected.
Identicon, Wavatar, MonsterID and Retro avatars are all available. These are generated images that are based upon the usernames of your blog commenters, and as such each one is different. As a low-impact avatar solution (as far as server processing power goes) this is a good option to take, although note that the selection you make here affects all commenters on your blog.
Add Local Avatar
If you would prefer your readers to be able to upload their own avatars, you will need to install a suitable plugin.
One of the top choices is the Add Local Avatar plugin, which can be used by your commenters for uploading custom avatars to their profiles on your blog.
This plugin is a sort of catch-all solution – your readers can set either a local avatar that is stored on your blog or a global avatar that is pulled in from another service. Via Users > Avatars you will be able to keep an eye on all of the avatar options that have been set, as well as specify a default (such as Identicon) for users who don’t opt to upload their own images. Avatar size and upload location can also be declared here.
A useful additional option is the inclusion not only of a facility for uploading avatars but for using a Twitter avatar instead. Users will have access to reset and upload alternatives whenever they open their WordPress account profiles.
If you like the functionality that the previous plugin offers but don’t have any need for the wide selection of additional options, the Twitter Avatar Reloaded plugin might be what you are looking for.
This plugin adds a new line to the comment form, enabling your readers to add their Twitter account when leaving their thoughts. When this is done, the plugin will display the Twitter avatar alongside the comment!
Custom Avatars for Comments
If you have a particular theme that you wish to maintain across your WordPress blog, you might consider the Custom Avatars for Comments plugin, a tool that enables your users to select from a limited number of avatars.
While this won’t appeal to most blogs, if you have a topically-focused blog then having the option of limiting avatar images to a subset of avatar types may prove useful.
There is no need to leave your readers’ comments looking dull and bland when there are so many avatar options available to brighten your blog theme and give your readers some personality and a presence on the blog.
Have you changed the default WordPress avatar options? Do you use any of the solutions suggested here? Let us know, and tell us how it changed the way your readers interact with your blog!