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Not sure if this is the proper place for this question. In my opinion, it is related to user experience, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

If you have a site/application that separate users with admin-access (the right to change settings, add new users etc.) from those who do not have admin-access (basically only have read access to the data). It's quite easy to name those with admin-access and just call them "Administrators", but what would you call those without admin-access? I'm looking for a word, both to use in the UI and within specs and code, to separate the two types of users.

I thought of names like "Normal", "Regular", "Ordinary" and so forth, but non of them feel right. They all have some sort of negative or undesirable tone, I believe. Just calling them "User" doesn't seem right either, as users with admin-access are users as well.

I'd love some input on a name, where the purpose of it is clear, but without adding some sort of undesired value.


The context I'm facing is similar to the one of Google Analytics. A user can create a user account, and then work with one or many applications associated with her account. For some of the applications she might be an Administrator, for some she might not.

Looking through the terminology used by Google Analytics, they call the users either Administrator or User, so that seems to be an established terminology and might not be that bad, but I'm not entirely sold, so any better suggestion is appreciated.

At the moment I'm leaning towards the suggestion by Peter, to name the role based on what they do (something related to viewing statistics about the app).

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Why not use a standard word such as member? –  Benny Skogberg Oct 14 '12 at 12:58
@BennySkogberg Thanks for your suggestion, member might be a good idea. I added some additional context to the question, and perhaps Member would be the appropriate word for an individual user account in my case, but I'm not sure if it suits the role they have (or lack of Administrator role). –  Christofer Eliasson Oct 14 '12 at 13:57
I prefer the term "data peasants". –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 14 '12 at 15:58
@JimmyBreck-McKye I was going to suggest pawns... –  Tobias Kienzler Oct 14 '12 at 16:44
Everyone is a User, someone is the Owner, then there are Admin(istrator)s and usually many of Editors, Authors/Writers, Proofreaders/Copywriters/Correctors, Commenters, Translators, Illustrators/Photographers, Designers, Programmers/Coders, Supporters, Contributors, Uploaders/Seeders, Downloaders/Leechers and Readers/Viewers/Listeners. They can be assigned to groups like Members, Staff, Public, Consumers, Trustees, Board, Humans/People, Machines/Bots/Crawlers etc.pp. –  Crissov 6 hours ago

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

What's your app about? There is probably some natural term from the domain. For example, if it was a forum that might be "member". For this site we might call ourselves UXers, designers (oh, hell, I've opened a huge can of worms there!).

The other thing to think about is roles instead of users. For example, I have an application which has a workflow in several distinct stages. The first step is known as collection, so users who perform that role are called collectors. The next step is assembly, so users there are called assemblers and so on. But in fact quite a few users are both collectors and assemblers. As it happens there are also admins, but that's just another role in the system. So the term we use varies throughout the system depending on the role the user is performing in that part of the system.

In my application if we want to talk about the permissions system itself then, yes we fall back to the word users - e.g. users can only access those parts of the system for which they have permission. But for the team using that application we rarely talk about "users", typically we're more specific.

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While it's a perfectly fine answer, I disagree that "it's pretty rare to talk about users" - apart from enterprise systems, it's really rare to differentiate between class of users or roles. It's extremely hard to make a management of any small company understand that they have different kind of users/target audiences / etc. Even on SE, users are called users, just look on the menu bar. –  Aadaam Oct 14 '12 at 15:14
@Aadaam, I meant it's pretty rare for the specific team I was talking about in the example to use the term users. We always use a more specific term. I'll tweak the answer to make that a bit more explicit. –  Peter Bagnall Oct 14 '12 at 15:20

Think of user as the base user type and everyone assigned to this type is called just user.

Admin actually inherits from the user type and gets i.e. more rights and this is why you may call him admin.

So if a user is just a user and not a specialization of user type it makes no sense to call him somehow different.

Ok, this might be from the view of a programmer but I think it makes sense and in the end everybody knows what user means. There is actullay no need to invent something else.

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Since the Unix admin is called root, why not pick some plant parts like Sprout, Seedling, Leave, Flower, Fruit? The further they are from the root, the less privileges they possess.

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Thanks for your response! Even though it's a creative idea, my gut tells me it's a bit too abstract for most people to grasp intuitively. –  Christofer Eliasson Oct 14 '12 at 15:54
Yes, I guess it is too non-standard to be accepted by users –  Tobias Kienzler Oct 14 '12 at 16:45

Designing in an enterprise setting, we frequently distinguish between "Administrators" and "Business Users", the latter meaning users who do not change system settings, but rather pursue business goals with the help of the system.

Needless to say, Administrators are Users as well, and usually we talk not of Business Users (because the category often is too broad) but of Sales Reps, Team Managers, Production Supervisors, etc.

Similarly, administrative tasks may be structured and thus result in several "Administrator Roles". And of course, some Business Users may also have access to administrative tasks - those might then be called "Key Business Users"...

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Personally I would go for an Office style approach / Career style approach - as the majority of people would understand this. You start at the bottom of the ladder and have to work your way up - getting benefits etc as you go along. I got the idea from the TV series SUITS a little - I have to admit. You start off at the ground floor and have work your way up to be on the board.

[ Mail Room ] - For new unprivileged users.

[ Tea Room ] - For users getting their first privileges.

[ Cubicles ] - For the majority of users with a variety of privileges.

[ Own Office ] - For more senior users / moderators with an upper level of privileges.

[ Corner Office ] - For veteran users / supervising moderators with almost all privileges.

[ Board Room ] - For Administrators with full privileges.

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Thanks for your response! Though a very original and creative idea, I would have to say though that it sounds like a bad one in practice, for several reasons. First, the name usually represents something the user is, like an admin, a manager, or similar - calling the user a mail room seems really weird. Second, it will be very vague what privileges the various roles might grant. What might I possible be authorized to do if I am a mail room? –  Christofer Eliasson 2 hours ago
That is quite a good point, and where it gets the idea across - I guess in a way it could be quite offensive as a user group. However, the career ladder could be a good example for you to use as it is broad and not derogatory like Sprout or Leaf. Where good ideas calling someone a Sprout could imply they are slow and dim. Generic Job titles may suit you better with this, as everyone generally feels appreciated when they have an actual job title that isn't "Tea B*tch". Just a thought :) –  Steve King 2 hours ago

I'am using 'public' as a namespace for non-logged-in users.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Thanks for your answer, however the question primarily focus on authenticated users without additional privileges - not non-authenticated users. –  Christofer Eliasson 5 hours ago

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