My first encounter with avatars occurred several years back when my relatives paid a visit and the kids and I played computer bowling. I was instructed to create an avatar in order to play the game and have it keep track of my score. I thought it was a bit silly, but I went ahead and built my avatar - with purple hair, weird eyes, and other such features. That was the last time I paid serious attention to avatars (except for the movie) until recently when I signed up for an online programming course. The instructor wanted to be able to recognize each student easily on the course discussion board and asked us to post an avatar on Gravatar. Try saying that six times fast - an avatar on gravatar, an avatar on gravatar. : )
An avatar is a representation of you or your business. They are similar to the favicons we discussed previously, only larger, and are used on blogging and social media websites to distinguish between users.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com) defines an avatar as:
Only in the age of computers can we have go from Hindu deity to electronic image without blinking an eye!
Avatars are square and are used by WordPress and other blogging websites with sizes varying by website. If you blog or post replies to blogs and/or bulletin boards, an avatar makes it easier for your fans to find you.
Twitter recently implemented avatars at 65 pixels square while Facebook choose to use 160 pixels for business page logos. These two examples use their own systems for uploading files, however, many websites use files posted on the Gravatar system.
Special Note: Facebook’s directions indicate to upload a file that is 180 pixels square, however the system crops it to 160 pixels. For best results, created your Facebook logo at 160 pixels x 160 pixels then added white space around it to make it 180 pixels x 180 pixels.
Gravatar is a service that provides globally unique avatars. Their instructions indicate that images can be used in sizes ranging from 1 pixel up to 2048 pixels, however, most sites stay with the 30 pixel square to 200 pixel square range, so starting with a file that is 200 pixels square will cover most situations.
Use Adobe Photoshop or any other image processing software that is capable of creating .gif or .jpg files. If you happen to have a large photograph that represents you or your business, go ahead and use it. Just remember to crop it square. Otherwise start with a file that is 200 pixels by 200 pixels. Use this graphic as a guide:
If the avatar is for yourself, use a photograph of yourself or be creative and capture your essence in a graphic of some sort. If it is for your business, use your company logo and colors.
When the avatar is ready, go to gravatar.com, sign up for an account, and upload our image. Images are associated with specific email addresses and you can upload one image per email address or reuse an image for many email addresses depending upon your needs. Use the email address that you use for blogging or posting to blogs.
If you manage a website that includes a social component, you can add a personal touch by bringing in the faces and logos of your customers. Use the Gravatar services to post your customers’ avatars with the familiar img src= tag.
Special Note: Oh, and if you do not want to create your own avatar, you can use a myriad of identicons, monsterids, wavatars, and retros supplied by Gravatar.