Username vs. Screen Name

5 May 2010 - 11:38am
5 years ago
3 replies
2684 reads

I'm working on redesigning a website that uses the term "screen name" rather than "username".  Personally, I am more used to seeing and using "username".  The last time I regularly used "screen name" was back in the '90s with AOL.  However, that is just my personal opinion.  I'm curious how others feel about it - which term do you tend to use?  Are "username" and "screen name" exactly equivalent or would you use them differently - e.g. "screen name" for chat programs but "username" for websites?


6 May 2010 - 1:46am
Christopher Rider

Ok. So, off the top of my head, I think "username" is probably better. Like some others here, I don't think I've heard the term "screen name" for years, and username seems pretty standard (gmail uses it).  On the other hand, Yahoo and Windows Live use "Yahoo ID" and Widows Live ID".  Those probably help catch the people who don't realize that they might have multiple things called "username" - some novices might think they should type whatever they use to log into their workstation.

This is a case where some guerilla user testing will give you better results than any interaction designer's intuition. Whip up a couple paper prototypes and show them to your grandma, your next-door neighbour, some random person on the street.  Preferably a few people in roughly the target demographic of your site.

It doesn't take much effort, and you might be surprised at the results.  Who knows, people might like "login name" or "account name" or "personal signifier".  Well probably not that last one, but you catch my drift :P

You might even be overthinking it - whatever you choose is likely to work for a large segment of the population.  They're going to look for two text fields stacked on top of one another, and type their credentials in without even looking at the labels. (...well... unless you choose "personal signifier".  That will probably result in a massive FAIL.)

Have fun!

6 May 2010 - 10:03am

Thanks.  I agree with all your points.  Our client hasn't given us any budget for user testing except towards the end of development (I know, I know - not ideal).  But you're right, I probably can do just a very quick, informal test or poll for this question.  

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