Profile Picture update experience

I wanted to change my avatar on this site. I found my user profile section by clicking my name. I wasn't successful in changing my picture right away. First I clicked on the large avatar and it just reloaded the page. Then I looked around and found the "edit" button and clicked that. Finally. Success.

But then...

I click the "Change Picture" button and a new website pops up. Ahhh! Wtf's a gravitar? I'm not signing up for this. Frustrated. Leave.


Why can't we have a button to upload a picture? That's what I'm used to. I don't want to have to email some service and attach a picture or something or whatever grrr. My profile picture for UX.SE is going to be totally different than the one I'd use for WordPress or some other online communities. This is because my audience at SE will appreciate my design work, so I'd rather upload a picture I made instead of a picture of my face.


Please add a button to just simply upload my avatar picture. And consider changing the behavior of someone clicking on their avatar picture from their profile.

Thanks guys! :)

Edit: I chewed JonW out for his answer, but I'm not really upset with him. And I'm sounding impatient because I'm trying to communicate the voice of the user, not because I feel angry. Most people hate using new technology. Any way, I feel bad for acting aggressively toward JonW, who just wants to help. If you're new to User Experience, you might find it interesting to see a typical response to someone purposing change. So read JonW's answer, and tell us what you think. Thanks :)

  • 1
    Tyler, remember that you're talking with other UX professionals here with likely at least as much experience as yourself, so while I understand your attempt to "communicate the voice of the user", it's not necessary to be so aggressive about it. You're preaching to the choir - we already agree with you, we're just answering your question by explaining why things are the way they are.
    – Rahul
    Nov 28, 2012 at 9:26

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately the core functionality of all sites on the SE network is the same and the site-specific changes are just on the CSS level, as well as on all pages and dialogues dealing with site-specific context. The log-in mechanism and user settings are shared by the entire network, and people from a specific site can't change them for their site alone - even if someone is willing to spend his time to fix the code, as you did.


This isn't something specific to ux.stackexchange; Gravatar is used across all the StackExchange sites. Just as OpenID is used for registration, StackExchange use Gravatar for avatars.

StackExchange have used Gravatar for most (if not all) of their existence. A blog post was made on this back in June '08: Gravatars, Identicons, and You discussing why the choice was made for using Gravatar.

Stripped down to basics, the reason for this is:

  • Avatars from Gravatar are global.
  • They're easy.
  • They're safe.
  • Gravatar does one thing (Gravatar isn’t about social networking, mp3s, news, or any mashups thereof. It’s trying to solve one tiny problem on the web with laser-like focus: providing a web-friendly Globally Recognized Avatar for you across all the websites you visit.)

There are also more than a few posts on the main StackOverflow Meta site about the use of Gravatars, some people are just curious about how to use it such as:

How do I change my profile picture, or avatar?

Your picture/avatar is tied to Gravatar — for "globally recognized avatar" — linked to your e-mail address.

Others are of your opinion and would like to have a different way of providing an avatar. From the Meta StackOverflow post (which as been set as status-deferred for over 3 years now): can we use non-gravatar avatars?:

It would be nice to have the option to just upload an avatar rather than have to use some external service like gravatar.

So yes, you're not alone in wanting an alternative to Gravatar. As this is a feature global to Stackexchange then Meta.StackOverflow is really the place to raise these concerns, although as I've highlighted above this has been brought up several times over the years. Feel free to add your voice of concern on any of the posts on Meta StackOverflow to show that people still request an alternative to Gravatar. (Or alternatively, do some reading up on Gravatar to see if you feel comfortable using them and go with that if you decide they're worthwhile.)

  • The reasoning is features features features. This is UX.SE. Let's set an example. Why would we have our own meta site if we couldn't make changes to UX.SE as we see fit? I know the SE sub-sites can be different independent of each other. We can change the background color of UX.SE to blue, for example. Gravatar sucks. Let's get rid of it or offer a simple alternative. Bringing this up on the regular stack overflow is going to be a huge headache. We're not trying to change the feature globally. We're UX and we know it sucks. This is what we do. Let's change it and ask for forgiveness later. Nov 25, 2012 at 2:33
  • Another note: It's NOT easy. I DON'T WANT global. What's their business model? Probably something like Google or Amazon, which is to collect user information. What's Google's most valuable asset? Where do they make their money? Hint: Definitely not advertising. Google's product is YOU, the consumer. They collect and sell your information. My assumption is that Gravatar uses a similar business model (it's free). Why would I give them my information? Gravatar sucks. I'll do the coding if no one else wants to. Let's fix this. Nov 25, 2012 at 2:41
  • The sites are coded by StackExchange, not by members of each individual subsite. Just because you don't happen to like gravatar it doesn't mean it is the wrong choice. Did you read the blog post from Jeff or any of the links I sourced in my answer? Have you looked into what Gravatar is? I don't see what needs to be 'fixed' here. What exactly is wrong with Gravatar (apart from 'it sucks')?
    – JonW Mod
    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:46
  • It's a giant f'ing headache to change my profile picture. My expectation is that changing a profile picture already sucks because I have to navigate a file system, which is extremely unusable, but now I have to give away my information to Gravatar. I already signed up for Stack Exchange. Now I'm signing in... again? Nov 25, 2012 at 2:48
  • 2
    This will surprise you, but people aren't like you. In fact, 99% of the world doesn't have your patience when it comes to computers. Most people get fed up and quit. That's what 99% of people do. You live in a world of perfectly healthy, 26 year old expert users who think average people are "retarded." The world's a much bigger place than that. We need to accommodate people. Nov 25, 2012 at 2:51
  • 2
    I'm not defending Gravatar, nor am I slating it. You asked why you can't just upload your own picture, and I gave you the answer. I am sorry that this seems to make you so angry, if you actually want to complain about Gravatar then you can contact stackexchange to raise your concerns.
    – JonW Mod
    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:55
  • I'M NOT ANGRY. No seriously, I'm not. I'm trying to teach you how frustrated people feel about using computers. Also, I expect there's going to be 1000 geeks who say it's no big deal. The biggest challenges aren't technical. I can fix the code myself. The biggest challenges are social, organizational, and political. Gravatar sucks. But to cause any sort of change there's going to be resistance. That's the nature of people. Let the UX people decide on their own solution and stop standing in their way. Nov 25, 2012 at 2:59
  • Thanks for all your help, Jon. I'm actually very glad you commented. Sorry for voting you down. Maybe this discussion will help illuminate the fundamental nature of UX problems to readers on this site. You're doing a great job. Thanks again for your comments. If I sounded impatient, it's not because I'm angry. It's because I'm trying to show you how average people feel when they have to use technology. They just want to get in and out and move on. Nov 25, 2012 at 3:04
  • @TylerLangan - The UX.SE meta site is hardly the place to "show you how average people feel when they have to use technology". Everyone here knows how users act with technology. A good number, I'm sure, know far more than you or I do about the subject. And even if they didn't, a site to discuss how the main site functions is not the place to "teach" that sort of thing (even though I highly doubt that's what you were really trying to do). Jan 18, 2013 at 22:11

Stack Exchange recently announced that they have now implemented this feature.


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