Juan Vaamonde
Juan Vaamonde

Journal

My journal is where I infrequently write about design & startups

The name field conundrum

The name field of a standard contact form is a tricky thing. Because there’s a few things the designer must consider. Firstly, as pointed out by Luke Wroblewski, people (fact: your users could be people) think of their entire name as one entity of information. 

His suggestion was to just have one field for the user’s entire name. It’s so simple! Problem solved. 

Well that’s what I thought, until I talked to some developers. They made it clear that it would be a complex and possibly impossible task to create a field that was able to always accurately distinguish between and separate a person’s first name and last name. They would have to think about people with middle names, people with multiple parts to their last name, people that also use their mother’s last name and royals who have many titles. (you never know)

In other words, the simplest possible solution, immensely complicates things. Sort of misses the point of having a simple solution in the first place.

So in summary, we need a field that appears to the user to treat their entire name as a single entity of information, but allows the user to make it clear to the developer which is their first name and which is their last. Without realising that’s what they’re doing. We want to avoid the situation where the person might type their entire name into the “First name” field. Or when they put a complicated name into a “Name” field.

How’s about this?

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