Merging firstname/last name into one field

  • I am entertaining the notion of a single field for name entry on our scheduling web app. I think this is an excellent case for a "forgiving format" to make it easy to enter their names quickly. I would label it and possibly put additional placeholder text guiding the user. Like this:

    Either raw or with placeholder text.

    It's important to catch first and last name correctly because it gets saved in our contact database that we provide to our users. However, people could enter "Joe De Maggio" or "Dr. Chopra" or "Ms Sally Ann Mc Dumont". The possibilities are many.

    Is this choice wise? Is the engineering worth the UX? Does anyone know a plugin that tackles this?

    I think the UX would be pleasant but I think your data will quickly become dirty, more so than if you had the data fields separated. It is unfortunately impossible to deduce what someone wants to be referred to when they list their name as _Joe De Maggio_.

    Who are the users: co-workers/customers/both?

    Does the scheduling tool have to notify the people that have their name inputted? If so, how do you deal with duplicate names? If that's not an issue, then that field is really just a free text field, and I think it's perfectly acceptable to leave it as one field...let people enter the name any way they wish to.

    Yes it does notify them. Emails are sent out when people book saying Dear [name]. It also accepts imports of data from CSVs and we are making the customer table map to CRM API's. I wish it were just a name field.

    How does it deal with a situation where an organization may have two 'John Doe's? Names can't be unique identifiers, so I'm guessing there has to be some other bit of data being used as the unique identifier. How is that being exposed to the user?

    What order should the names be entered? It's not always ...

    "The more structure you put into data, the freer it will become." —Karen McGrane

    @Da01 Using a name as a unique identifier is a horrible idea and that thought should be banned from human consciousness.

    @craigmoliver we agree.

    FWIW, much like some of these answer, I had a system that took the full name, reverse concatenated it, and served it to the user to edit themselves if the system got it wrong.

  • Erics

    Erics Correct answer

    10 years ago

    There are a great many assumptions people make about names (also: W3C: Personal names around the world.)

    Thankfully the W3C have some excellent advice on field design for names, of which the simplest is to use two fields (but not for first/last):

    • Full name
    • What should we call you? (for example, when we send you mail?)

    Thank you for pointing this out (it saved me looking up the links :-) (Though I would change the "should" to "may" for the second field, but that's just one of my pet peeves).

    IMO no answer could be better.

    So the answer to my question is it wise/worth it is: "Waxing Yes" as we internationalize. "worth it ... "Not yet" based on the design and development considerations as well as the buy-in I will have to get on an approach. What's in a name?... a lot.

    +1 It's worth noting that GMail (Google Contacts) provides only an "Add name" field as well.

    This is great, but what do I do for the simple case of a user like myself "Matt Johnson" when I need to run a report showing names as "Johnson, Matt"? Do I add yet another field for that?

    @MattJohnson why would you need to do that?

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