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Do you have any recommendations about user avatars? What is the best approach for the users and for a social web platform?

What I can think of:

  • using random unique preselected images.
  • using unique generated images.
  • using gravatar.
  • taking avatar from social media connections.
  • letting the user to upload his own avatar.
  • showing a selection of images for users to choose.
  • letting the user combine an avatar from provided elements (face, hair, skin, eyes, nose, mouth, etc.).

Do you think that any of those ways is any better than others?

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You have mentioned some great options. Each option fulfil a different kind of need and are not directly comparable. Here are some pros and cons of these options:

1 Random unique preselected imagess

Pro: Excellent potential for building a brand identity. Say, your logo is a penguin named tux. Use a set of images showing tux in different poses, outfits, doing activities etc. Con: Someone has to make those images. You'll rely on an artists and possibly a brand identity manager. Besides, what if users did not like your branding material so much.

2 Unique generated images

Pro: Quick and easy if you can use an off the shelf open source software. Con: May not be as interesting as the previous option.

3 Gravatar

Pro: The easiest to implement. Minimal effort needed to integrate with your application. Con: Some users may not have gravatar, you'll end up showing the default image for them. Not so much of an issue unless most of your users are not gravatar users.

4 Avatar from social media connections

Pro: Quick and easy if you can use the right off the shelf software. Cons: Users may not like to expose their FB/Twitter identity on your site.

5 User uploaded avatar

Pro: Allows your users to have their favourite avatar, your app feel more personalized. Con: A bit of work on your end to create the upload form, store the image, retrieve the image etc.

6 Selection of images for users to choose

Pro: very similar to the first option, but let the users choose which tux image they like. Con: Same as the first option.

7 Letting the user combine an avatar from provided elements (face, hair, skin, eyes, nose, mouth, etc.)

Pro: Lets the user engage more with your app. Con: Quite a bit of work on your end. Besides, depending on the KPIs your team is tracking, there may not be a lot of ROI.

So I would ask myself what are the priorities and how much time/resource can I allocate for this avatar feature in my app?

One extreme would be when the priority is to get a working prototype ASAP. I would go with gravatar in that case. The other extreme would be, to prioritise brand identity. I would go with either 1 or 6 in that case. I see the other options sitting somewhere in between these two extremes. So depending on your priorities and budget, you can also go for a non-extreme option.

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