Should your platform/app allow users to upload profile pictures?

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Published: 09 Mar 2022

7 minute read

Should your platform/app allow users to upload profile pictures?

Recently, after working on a SASS(software as a service) platform for a few weeks we went on to present the UI to the client. By the end of the presentation, what seemed like a usual question at first, arose from the client on “Why did we require the users to upload a profile picture?”.

Obviously the answer to this question will be different depending on the type of a platform, your user demographics and many more factors. But the overall question seems to get me thinking “why has it almost become normal that every website or app that you register on, requires or encourages you to add a profile picture?”.

I personally have an account on shopee.com (which is a southeast asian marketplace, that i login to once every few months to buy some electronics or something related to my hobby) and yet I actually have a picture with my face on in my account. There seems to be no real reason why they need to know how I look: I login, purchase my product and they ship it to my address, end of transaction.

So after the presentation I started thinking, reading and researching more about this topic, and based on on my experience of building and planning on tens of web platforms, mobile apps and many more i decided to compile my knowledge and finding into the following:

Findings based on personal experience & research on why you should or shouldn’t allow your platform users to add profile pictures?

Why should profile pictures be allowed? Why shouldn’t profile pictures be allowed?
  • Personalization: while this does not seem a very strong point on why users should upload profile pictures, it is a definitely valid point. Having a personal picture on any app or platform gives you a much stronger feeling of personalization. It makes you feel like this is your small digital home.
  • Recognition: based on countless researches it was found that our minds recognize pictures much faster than they read words. We can recognize digital contacts much faster by their image that we have seen few times then we do by reading their name each time
  • Differentiation: this is particularly evident when you are using such communication or social media apps. Imagine all your whatsapp contacts had no pictures and you had every time you had to read the message and read the name to recognize the sender. However with pictures we instantly recognize the sender(at least if it is a frequent contact).
  • Identification: Not all profile pictures have to be faces of people. Sometimes it can be a picture of a pet, a scenery or an activity. When it’s either one of the above, it helps users to identify themselves with a certain lifestyle, hobby, person or goals. Personally for me I use pictures of musicians or musical instruments, because of my love of music I always want to be associated with that particular interest.
  • Simplify your onboarding: you obviously do not need a profile page with your personal picture to place an online order. Make your platform or app user experience minimal to allow users to reach their end goal faster.
  • Save on storage: now obviously profile pictures are gonna require some storage space. A standard phone camera image size can start from 2MB and can be up to 10MB per image. Unless you compress & resize your images(which can reduce the size about 80%) you're gonna need a lot of space to store those images.
  • Media Filtering: while this is less likely the case, it could still happen that users could use copyrighted, private or even in some cases explicit images on your platform. That’s definitely something you want to avoid to get into legal troubles. You obviously can avoid any legal issues by making sure your user contracts cover all these points and have a proper image reporting system in place.

About the Author

Should your platform/app allow users to upload profile pictures?
Shavkat

Has been doing web design & development since early 2010s. Believes every website should serve a purpose. he is the founder and head of Development at Ecompile.