Comments are an important part of a magazine project that I'm work on, even being featured extensively on the front-page itself. For this reason, commenters are not only required to be logged in but must also have a recognizable avatar.

Although it would be the easiest route, we decided to make social logins secondary at most (as a shortcut available only after account creation), so we're left with basically two options - ask users to upload a profile picture in the registration form or use the gravatar functionality embedded in wordpress and prompt them to make sure they have a profile pic associated with their email @gravatar.

Each with its own caveats:

  1. The advantage of the gravatar route is that if there's one already in place no further steps need be taken. On the flip side, those who don't have one would have to go to a third party unknown site to complete the formalities. This issue can be alleviated by letting the registration finish and then programmatically upgrade the rights of the user as soon as the gravatar becomes available. However, it's still a hurdle.

  2. The uploading route is more straightforward at first, with the cost of having everybody, gravatar user or not, upload a profile picture. Still not too rosy. First, there should be an opportunity to change the image later, with costs in terms of programming and space. But if the user later deletes the picture or changes it to something undesirable, we are given a tough choice - either leave it be (not nice) or demote them and hide their comments as well (not cool). Sure, there's this possibility with gravatar as well, but I think it's much less likely hence acceptable.

If the option to update the picture is left out, the sign-up process would wrap up in one step, with some people giving up on the picture upload field (maybe they're on mobile and don't have one handy) and not being able to add it later in order to gain the right to comment.

Based on target audience, I expect between 20 to 25% of new users to already have some gravatar in place.

So the question is what would be the most efficient route to make sure that only people who have a profile picture get to comment while maximizing their numbers.

2 Answers 2


Sounds like you want a verification step that alerts a user that has no gravatar to upload a photo. In the case where they already have a gravatar, skip over that alert. That will keep some of the pestering away from users that are ready-to-go, and perhaps get you more profile pictures. However you go about writing the prompts, be as nice as you can to the user that isn't interested in having their picture online.

  • 1
    I'd echo the last part about users not being interested in uploading a picture. Even if I desperately wanted to comment on a magazine article, I'd put up with having to register an account, but being forced to upload an image or link to some third-party social website would send me straight to the BACK button. Only you know your audience / business needs, but I'd seriously consider an option of either no image or choosing one of a stock collection of avatars.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 8:29
  • Yep, that was stupid simple, just a case of tunnel vision on my part. Gracias!
    – lucian
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 14:13

UX never exists in a vaccuum

This is a tough question. In a perfect UX world, you'd build a self-contained, hand-tailored, exquisitely smooth product that does everything your user needs. But then you also have to account for the whole business and profitability thing.

Reality dictates that we can't build everything (even if it just means integrating another library). Nobody short of Google, Facebook, and the like have the resources for that.

Here's my philosophy:

When a good service exists and the feature is not central to your product, let someone else do it.

Think about how the feature integrates with your product:

  • Are selfie uploads (or photos of any kind) central to what you do?
  • Do you already need to let users manage images on your site?
  • Is this something your users will interact with often?

I suspect the answer to each of those questions is the same: no. So then you have to ask if you really have spare research, design, and engineering resources to build something that falls into the "nice to have" category?

Gravatar is a solid option and I've used it with great success. It's something your average user will only do once (maybe twice). And if someone doesn't want to think about it all, Gravatar will return a nifty unique pattern generated from the sign-in email. Free avatar!

  • Yes, you're completely right and I'm doing my best to keep myself aware of the issue. It is kinda central to the project, it's aiming to take bring in the value added commenters from places that are pestered with trolling, rambling, nonsense (to the point that some are getting rid of comments sections altogether or entrust them to third parties with all the fallout involved). Own face involves some sort of skin in the game, and one needs to tread carefully not to get to the point where it's not worth it - that's for sure.
    – lucian
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 14:09
  • @LucianDavidescu Good luck. Focus on discussion tools. Gravatar has you covered on their end. Remember, the avatar is something the user will likely set once, if at all. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.