There are a couple of ways to represent a user's reputation score on a community site:
- Straight up number, e.g. doctype and stackoverflow (clear and straightforward, though a couple of people at my company think that it's too geeky for non-engineer types).
- Buckets, e.g. eBay's star system (which no one really gets other than expert users)
- Log-scaled quantity of icons: for a user's point value X, you use some log function to determine how many icons to display to represent their score. So someone with 10 points gets the reward of seeing one icon next to their name, but to keep things reasonable, a person with 10,000 points gets only 5 icons. They still clearly have a higher reputation score than the person with one icon, but you don't have to make space for 100 little icons.
If you were doing (3), what sort of icon would you use? A star is an obvious choice, although we're already using stars on the site to represent ratings of businesses. I'm wondering if the stars would get overloaded if we used them to represent both an object's rating and a user's reputation.
Another alternative to stars would be a 'thumbs up' hand icon. Or, following on the egg-chicken idea, you could work from a rosette up to a gold cup?
Stars would work, if you went for a military/police type theme. This would not only be less "movie-review" style, but it would also stretch your range a bit further. You could have single stripe, double, one star, two star, and at some point maybe an eagle or something.
Or, if you just want things that range from 1 to 5, you could use some sort of developmental metaphor. 1 star = egg, 2 = chick, 3 equals whatever, and eventually 5 is some majestic rooster (maybe to male-oriented on both of these).
Or, you could go with something tetris-style. 1=tiny rocket, 2=red rocket, all the way up to 5=shuttle, and this way you could have the secret level 6 which is a UFO. Maybe it would be a cool temporary honor.
I could do this all day. Let me know if you're interested.
I've always thought this was pretty nifty as it says a lot in a small amount of space.
It all depends on the rest of your site of course, but maybe something like the karate belt system; white belt, red belt, etc, up to black belt for the best users.