Why Your Form Only Needs One Name Field

by on 02/14/17 at 7:34 am

Does your form have two separate fields for first name and last name? If it does, you are making it harder for users to fill out your form. But there’s a better way.

Split Name Fields Cause Problems

Not every user has a first and last name. Their cultural background determines how their name is formed. For example, if you’re from Latin America, chances are that you have two last names, one from each parent. If you’re Chinese, your family name is first, personal name is last, and they’re always used together.

Requiring every user to type their name into two separate fields is an impossible task. Some users will be able to do it, but others won’t know how to split their name into first and last. These users will get confused, leave a name field blank and won’t be able to submit the form.

Single “Full Name” Field

A single field labeled “Full Name” is more culturally inclusive. Full name may include first, middle, last, family and other given names. It allows users to type in their name without splitting them into first and last. This is aligned with how users perceive their name as a single coherent entity.

split_vs_one_name_field

Sometimes you may want to split name fields so you can refer to users without using their full name. Instead of asking for a first name, you can give users a “What should we call you?” field. This avoids the first and last name confusion and allows users to specify how to address them.

Cultural Inclusivity

The structure of a name is not the same across cultures. Users who visit your site will consist of a broad range of people from different countries. Your name field should be culturally inclusive so that no one struggles to fill out your form. With most things in life two is better than one. But when it comes to name fields one is better than two.


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9 Responses to “Why Your Form Only Needs One Name Field”

  1. Kelsey

    Feb 15th, 2017

    While great intent, I find it hard to imagine that our co-workers in IT would make the change to the CRM for a single name field. This feels like a lot of work from a data perspective. Is there a better way to label the two fields instead? And also include a ‘What should we call you?” field…

  2. anw

    Feb 15th, 2017

    I very much agree that this is a lot more user-friendly. But let’s look at the pros and cons.

    Pro:
    * This keeps things simple for the user. Instead of having to tab or mouse to 2 fields for their name, they can just put their full name into one field
    * This takes away confusion in how to word “First name” and “Last name” in places where the family name is usually placed before the given name (such as Japan, Korea, Romania, Hungary, etc.)

    Cons:
    * We now are not completely sure what the actual given name of the person is. “Arne Douglas” could be either someone named Douglas with a family name Arne, or someone named Arne with a famly name Douglas.
    * If we are forwarding this information somewhere, we have to try to parse out where a famly name begins. Let’s say we have the user inputs their name and we have to send this name to a goverment agency. The agency has fields that we have to fill out for both first and last name. Does our software know to split up “Archibald Jafeth de Willhelm VI” as “Archibald Jafeth” for the given name and “de Willhelm VI” for the family name to be placed into the appropriate fields?

    This is an issue of which I have been trying to find work arounds. I do like the fullname approach, but often it adds additional burdens in how to handle it.

    • Michael

      Feb 16th, 2017

      Perhaps it’s a good place to start and if the user-name is for something that DOES require a split name, a ‘family name’ field can be added to the ‘what do we call you’ field.

      Thinking about it though, what real value IS there to having separate first and last names? Why would that bank database really care? We can search and sort on that name field anyway and some people’s Last Names have spaces in them in the same way as a full name. Having just a single name field would essentially make the system search and sort on first-name instead of last-name

  3. Sean Fousheé

    Feb 16th, 2017

    Why not include a checkbox that a person can check if they don’t have a Last/Family name?

    • Dinkel

      Feb 17th, 2017

      I would think that, while this is adding an extra step to the user flow, this would be the better option, since you might stop users who do not have a first and second name from leaving your experience and still get the most information out of the form for your data base

  4. Devin

    Feb 19th, 2017

    While I understand your point, there are both pros and cons to your suggestion. I generally tend to use a single name field for simple lead forms but I’ll utilize two name inputs for applications that will benefit from the split data.

  5. andre ferreira UX manager

    Apr 6th, 2017

    Totally disagree with one single text field for several reasons, technically speaking it’s a nightmare for databases to distinguish data.
    The problem here actually is on the way you label it. you can just say First/given name . and Last/family name. Pretty sure that most people will get it no matter where they come from.

  6. Karthiksathasivam

    Apr 24th, 2017

    I understand we cannot search the last name from the data base if we use this one field method for First/Last Name.

    But we could use this method if we have a unique attribute on which we could search to zero in for a particular user, i think this method could be used or else we need to split the names entry fields as first or last name.

    Searching a name from the database could be technically tedious and time consuming may be a nightmare. But what i see here is, we could use this single text field for name in cases we have other mandatory attributes such as mobile number and email Id, which i think is far more easier to zero in for a particular user. In such cases we could use single text field instead of First Name, Middle Name and Last name.

    Instagram and Twitter uses this one field method for signing up. But both needs mobile or email ID as mandatory information for signing up.

  7. Ivan Burmistrov

    May 19th, 2017

    Unbelievable. “What should we call you?” means “We will spam you”. Also, users are clever enough to understand that if you ask for first name and last name separately then you will use first name for spam (“Dear John”).

    GOV.UK Service Manual (note that this is government!) provides some other arguments for using single name field: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/design/names

    Use a single name field because it can accommodate the broadest range of name types and requires less effort for users to understand.

    Multiple name fields mean there’s more risk that:

    ▪ a person’s name won’t fit the format you’ve chosen
    ▪ users will enter their names in the wrong order
    ▪ users will try to enter their full name in the first field

Leave a Reply to Karthiksathasivam