User Avatars: Adding an Author’s Photo with a Plugin

I guess it’s due to the major role that Automattic plays for the WordPress community that WordPress out of the box still doesn’t support local user avatars. Instead, users have to register with Automattic’s Gravatar to have a profile image displayed on their website (as long as the theme in use supports this). This is weird and a hassle.

While this is most probably solved with a little coding of your own, it’s also a niche for plugins – especially if you want your users to upload their pictures themselves.

The plugin with the most active installations, WP User Avatar, seems to do the job pretty good. Not acceptable in my opinion though is the fact that the plugin adds a new top level menu item in the WordPress admin bar – instead nesting into “Settings”, where settings like these should go.

The settings page of the plugin WP User Avatar (picture by

This is really intrusive and displays a sense of entitlement by the developers that I can’t really understand. Of course, there are ways to clean up the WordPress dashboard – but why clutter it up in the first place? I really don’t get why this plugin is so widely recommended.

Enter the competition: The very similar named WP User Avatars has 10.000+ active installs and is actively maintained – by widely known WordPress core contributer John James Jacoby. This plugin may has less settings than the afore-mentioned one but it’s light-weight, fast and does the trick.


WPML: Translating a User Bio

Many themes display the biographical info about authors that can be entered through the User Management section in the WordPress Dashboard. Whenever you run a multi-lingual site you obviously want the author info to be translated as well.

The poplular multi-language plugin WPML (affiliate link) does support this – but you don’t only have to enable “String Translation”, you have to explicitly make WMPL scan the author info as well. Just follow the steps below and easily translate your user biographies. This thread from the WPML support forum brought me on the right track.

  • in the WordPress Dashboard, navigate to WPML > String translation
  • on the bottom right of the page there will be a box named “More Options”
    – click on the “edit” link next to “Translating users of types:” and select the checkbox for “Author” (or the user role you want the biography translated for), then click “Apply”
  • now to to WPML > Theme and plugins localization
  • (If you haven’t activated String Translation yet, select “Translate the theme and plugins using WPML’s String Translation”)
  • after the initial options and lists, find the button “Scan the theme for strings” and click it
  • go again to WPML -> String Translation
  • on the filter field “Select strings within domain”, select “Authors” (or the user role you previously selected to be scanned). The page will then refresh itself and the list will now contain all author’s fields available for translation, including the biography/description.