WordPress has an interesting way of handling user profile images – avatars. Let’s see in more details how it works and how to improve it.
In WordPress, profile images are powered by Gravatar, a free service run and supported by Automattic. If you don’t know what Gravatar is, in short, it’s a service that allows you to create a profile and associate avatar images to their email addresses. Once you create a profile on the Gravatar website, your Gravatar image will automatically follow you whenever you participate in any WordPress site. For example, if you leave a comment with an email on a WordPress site, it pulls your avatar image from Gravatar servers and displays it next to your comment. It’s a good service and it helps you be more organized and consistent with your avatars and have unified online identity.
And what if you, your site users or clients don’t want to use Gravatar? Can you simply upload your avatar via WordPress dashboard? The answer is no. WordPress has no alternatives built in.
But as usually with WordPress, if you need functionality that isn’t there, you can use a plugin. To improve avatar experience I would recommend the WP User Avatars plugin created by John James Jacoby (core contributor at WordPress.org).
WP User Avatars is simple and easy to use. You simply install and activated it and your profile has new options for uploading your avatar image from your computer or media library. Awesome!
There is a track ticket open in WordPress core contribution forum about adding the functionality for custom avatars. Maybe in the future releases of WordPress you don’t have to use the plugin for this anymore.