Avatar is an visual representation of a user in the interface.

Rauno Freiberg
Rauno Freiberg M



  • Displays an image representation of a user.
  • Provides a unique fallback for unavailable images.
  • Describes the image in alternate text.

#Best practices

#Provide an image

Whenever possible, try to use a thumbnail image of a user instead of a dull, default human silhouette placeholder.

Not only does this give an additional humanizing touch to the interface, but it can help to visually organize, remember, and make sense of sections with multiple users.

#Generate a unique image fallback

If the image does not load or is unavailable — consider alternatives that are unique to a user.

For example, you could display initials with a unique background image that is based on the user's name:

Thomas Shelby


Joe Doe


Michael Jordan


This way the identity of a user will always be unique and pure!

#Expose multiple sizes

A single size avatar does not work for every use case. For example, due to inherent layout constraints, tables, usually require a smaller variant, whereas profile cards can accommodate a larger one.

At the very least, consider exposing two sizes — large and small.

Rauno Freiberg
Rauno Freiberg


#Use the <img> element

To ensure that the image of the avatar is accessible to users with screen readers, use the <img> element along with the alt attribute set to the user's name.

Additionally, you may want to use the CSS property object-fit: cover on the <img> element to accommodate larger images.

#Generating unique fallbacks

There are lots of ways to generate unique fallback images.

For users to have unique identities, use the full name instead of initials to generate the image.

The examples above use an awesome micro-service called avatar which you can use as an API to receive an image: https://avatar.tobi.sh/raunofreiberg.

Or, if you'd like to generate a similar image without the service, a simple hash algorithm would do the trick:

import * as React from 'react';
import hash from 'string-hash';
import color from 'tinycolor2';
function Fallback({ name }) {
const hashed = hash(name);
const c = color({ h: hashed % 360, s: 0.95, l: 0.5 });
const c1 = c.toHexString();
const c2 = c.triad()[1].toHexString();
return (
viewBox="0 0 80 80"
<stop stopColor={c1} offset="0%" />
<stop stopColor={c2} offset="100%" />
<g stroke="none" strokeWidth="1" fill="none">


By using the <img> element for the image, a lot of the accessibility requirements for this component are met.

However, if you want to use a placeholder like an <svg> or background-color for the fallback, make sure to add the following attributes:

  • Set role="img" on the placeholder element
  • Set aria-label to the user's name on the placeholder element
<svg role="img" aria-label="Rauno Freiberg">
<!-- Contents of SVG -->

This will help screen readers detect the element as an image and announce the text description.