What’s a Gravatar? Do I Need One?

The other day I received an email from Zac, asking if I would have a chance to update my Gravatar image for a shared, online work collaboration tool here at Lieberman Technologies. Like a lot of people, I wasn’t even sure what a Gravatar was. After a quick bit of online research, I discovered that a Gravatar (globally recognized avatar) is that little image that usually accompanies comments and text-based contributions you might make on any number of websites or collaborative programs. You see these on things like Facebook posts (where they’re known as profile pictures) or comments on a blog. Even though Facebook has its own avatar system, many blogs and websites do not; thus the need for a globally recognized solution like a Gravatar.

To be honest, I never took the time to make one because it just felt like “another thing to do.” It didn’t feel like something that was necessary to have, and I would rather spend my time doing other things. But, Zac asked me to do it and it was a good way to focus my mind on something new and fresh.

My Gravatar Image

Making a Gravatar was pretty easy and actually a lot of fun. I didn’t need my picture to be very serious or anything, so I just grabbed my cell phone and snapped a picture of myself looking like I was laughing really hard. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to email myself the picture and upload it to the gravatar.com website (we’ll get to that in a little bit), but I decided to do a little editing in Photoshop to make it a bit more personal. I tried to make it look like a black and white picture out of a comic book and added a little speech bubble. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

gravatar shane provost

It’s cheesy, but it makes me laugh, so I decided to use it.

Signing up for Gravatar

The next step after actually making the picture was to create a free account on gravatar.com and upload the file from my computer (I usually put things on the desktop to make them easy to find!) onto the website. It’s that easy. The whole process maybe took me maybe 15 minutes and that was including researching how to create my Gravatar, making the picture in Photoshop, and uploading it on my account.

What if I don’t have Photoshop?

Photoshop is a tool of the trade that Web designers, graphic artists, photographers, and other creatives use to manipulate digital images. If you don’t have Photoshop, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to alter your image in order to use it as a Gravatar. But if you want to try your hand at modifying your image, there are any number of programs out there that you can use. Picasa is one such editor (and it’s free!), as is Windows Photo Gallery, which comes installed on most PCs right out of the box.

So what’s the point?

You may be wondering what the big deal is about a Gravatar and why anyone would take a little bit of time to create one. Gravatars provide a way of personalizing and humanizing your online presence, which is important to the people who interact with you or your company. People appreciate it when they can get a sense of who you are in your online communications and one of the best ways to get this sense is to associate images with words and vice versa. I think this is one of the reasons Facebook chat sessions are more interesting and, more importantly, personal than other chat services that only supply a screen name.

It really is amazing how images not only enrich the most basic line of text just by associating an image with that text, but also how they enrich our digital experiences in general. These little pictures may seem small and insignificant, but they really do a lot to help make our experience online more human and less digital.

If you have a Gravatar account, leave us a comment. We integrate with Gravatar on our WordPress website.