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I'm building an app where a user may have many different roles. Each role is distinct and each role will be shown in different parts of the application to other users.

I had thought to give users the ability to have a different profile photo for each role so that they could have a more appropriate profile photo for each role. Just as an example, imagine a school app, where a user might have a role as "Student", a "Teacher's Assistant", and as a member of the school's marching band. So they might have a student profile photo shown on their student page. On the band website they might use a band profile photo of them in uniform. And on the Teacher's Assistant page they might be in formal attire (suit and tie).

But this seems like it might be overkill. The user will have to manage all these photos.

Is this overkill? Should the user have just one profile photo?

  • I'd give users the option of using separate profile photos or just one profile photo across all roles. – Monomeeth May 12 '16 at 9:17
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I strongly suggest that you ensure that you use more than just the photo to identify the role.

The photo should really be ancillary to the informational content: the informational content can be read by eye, by screenreader, and can be machine-readable in a way that photos cannot.

That deals with the informatics and accessibility issues.

In terms of personalisation, users often have a single image that they use to identify themselves across many systems - you only have to look at some of the more inappropriate profile photos on LinkedIn to see that. Sourcing and managing multiple profile images is just too much work for most users.

Having said that, it would be interesting to run a test to see what the uptake might be for a feature like that. I suspect it would be low but I'm willing to be proved wrong!

  • Thanks Andrew. Yes the profile photo is just part of the identification of the role. Maybe we could default them all to be the same as the standard user profile? But now that you mention the identity part, it seems like it might be best to have one photo since that will be identified with that user. Thoughts? – richard May 12 '16 at 8:25
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    I didn't mention that in the answer I gave but, yes; you are talking about two separate things: the role and the identity. While the role may be assigned to different people the identity will (usually) only be assigned to one. This means that users often like to show their personality in their profile pics rather than their conformity to the role. - I would stick with one photo as I don't think there is any real benefit to adding more. – Andrew Martin May 12 '16 at 8:47
  • Makes sense. But what happens if there are different requirements. For example, the band photo he's required to be in uniform. In the TA photo, the user is required to be dressed appropriately. This isn't a social app - it's a business app where the roles are strictly defined and viewed/shared differently. – richard May 12 '16 at 17:48
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A profile photo is an expression of personality. The moment you are giving an option to upload more than one, a user would try to encompass different facets of his/her personality in the available number of photos. This coupled with the fact that user who do not upload their real picture at times, will create a lot of chaos.

Considering the sizes of the profile pics, it is is easily possible to mistake two different profile pics for for two different people sharing the same name. This is too much degree of freedom. This hampers the standardization as well.

@Andrew Martin has already answered it well. Just to add, there are badges/ribbons/stickers which can be used on top of (or next to) the profile picture. These badges etc. would be controlled by the system and will be uniform for site. Two teacher's assistants would have a similar ribbon so it helps for users in association and identification.

A photo should be used for identification of a person. That is the purpose. For identification of his role, there should be different mechanism which does not interfere with the basic identity. User Avatar on any portal should be Identity(profile pic) + Role(can be badges/ribbons etc.)

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    +1 for the Badge idea - that was the first thing I thought of – DPS May 12 '16 at 9:54
  • Makes sense. But what happens if there are different requirements. For example, the band photo he's required to be in uniform. In the TA photo, the user is required to be dressed appropriately. This isn't a social app - it's a business app where the roles are strictly defined and viewed/shared differently. – richard May 12 '16 at 17:48

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