I have one rather large issue when it comes to designing blogs, which is that commenters often haven’t signed up to Gravatar. Which I would encourage you all to do, by the way. Therefore they have the boring default avatar which isn’t very colourful or exciting.
There are some alternatives, with various random shapes, patterns, monsters and triangular things being generated for users that have no avatars. These are an acceptable solution but from a design point of view, I don’t really like them! They’re often jagged and unattractive and wouldn’t fit in to the overal aesthetic of many of the sites I design.
Therefore I decided to take the task upon myself of creating a series of really simple avatars that all have the same theme but all look different enough to add a bit of personality to the comments section. And I came up with these:
Simple cartoon faces on a plain coloured background. These aren’t anything particularly new or different but they do the job. They have enough character to bring some life and personality to the comments section, without being distracting or unsightly.
One suggestion from George Woodliff-Stanley on Forrst was to change the face depending on the user’s activity or mood. For example, posting lots of well thought-out comments would gain you the intelligent looking face, whereas not posting anything for a long time would give you the sleeping avatar. Not sure how do-able this is (I certainly wouldn’t know how) but it’s a great idea.
I might be trying to implement these into the comments section here on my website in the near future. And if I get enough interest, I might release them for the design community too. Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.U January 4, 2011