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I'm building an app where user's vote/rate on restaurant dishes. The objective for visitors in general is to find which dishes are worth trying/not trying. In a app like this should there be an option for registered options upload an avatar despite that it won't be shown throughout the majority of the site?

If I do decide to include social features down the road would it hurt to introduce this feature so late in the game being that user's would now have to go back and perform an additional task they could've done initially at registration?

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The principle you want to leverage, here, is called social proof. I noticed that the experts at user-experience consultancy NN/g discuss this in their article, Social proof in the user experience. This article gives a quick overview and, in the last few paragraphs, provides links to other authors and research for in-depth reading. You might like to read about why photos in particular work better. It seems it's because people are more influenced by people who are similar to them.

For example, if you saw a movie rating by a 15-year-old boy or a 50-year-old woman, the rating that you'd trust more would be the one by the person who resembles you more. Photos help identify the degree of similarity.

A thought. Perhaps your users don't have to load a photo. You may be able to use one from another source. For example, I have LinkedIn integrated with outlook, and Outlook shows me photos of people in the email. (Note that this is not about social proof, but about recognition.)

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    The only thing I disagree with as far as showing a face is from what I see on Amazon product pages. I don't speak for everyone but for those reviews in particular, while I don't see the reviewers face (and never care to bother checking out their profile to do so) I usually find their review sufficient enough to help make a purchasing decision. The same applies for Facebook likes. I don't see the collection of friends and strangers that liked something but its enough for me to imply that the thing thats being liked is popular. – Carl Edwards Jul 13 '15 at 18:04
  • Yes, it's really difficult to generalize a design pattern that works in one setting to all similar settings. If I had to guess—and this is just a guess—Amazon probably doesn't see an increase in sales when they show faces. Again, guessing: the fact that others bought and reviewed the book I'm interested in is probably sufficient evidence that "this person is similar to me" and thus sufficient as social proof. – JeromeR Jul 14 '15 at 4:58
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For your specific scenario, there are many benefits and really can't see why NOT to use them. Basically, you want to have user's reviews, so while users are not the focal point, they're an important aspect of your site, if not THE MOST IMPORTANT. and this is NOT an exageration.

I assume your app is oriented to sell. Now, with apps like yours, I can find 100 places that sell pizza. As an user, I'll start to search for proximity, price, flavors and such. Then I may get (say) 10 places that fit into the criteria. As an user, what will decide my purchase action? REVIEWS! See how important this is?

Another example: informercials. They all have reviews and users swearing for their benefits. In an objective way, we all know infomercial products are usually low quality, cheap and a waste of money.... Yet all those people can't be wrong, they are so happy with the product I want to buy it too!

In short: pay special attention to this part, and YES, avatars are a fundamental part, because it provides a sense or a real person sharing his/her experience, and users can see it at first glimpse.

I won't extend more, since I could be explaining benefits of this approach for hours, just take a look to this page for more info on the subject

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    First and foremast thanks for such an in-depth answer. So from what I understand, having a "face to the name" would increase the likelihood of someone to make a decision based upon the votes of their peers? – Carl Edwards Jul 12 '15 at 18:24
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    Yes. Having a face for the name adds a trust factor to review based decisions. Furthermore, when users are asked to add their own avatar (as opposed to grab it from somewhere else or generate a random one), they tend to be more honest and polite, which also helps to engage visitors. Single names with no avatars are OK in some cases (see the link I gave you) but yours is not one of those cases – Devin Jul 12 '15 at 20:19

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