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I never understood the need to have an e-mail on websites. Using them as a log in is even worse. Does using your e-mail as a log in improve anything? Is memorizing a username really too difficult?

Are there any studies or reports that state that using e-mails as a log in is better?

Obviously other than being able to then contact users... But even so, having it as an optional field would do that just fine.

I'm working on a product, and wondering if the log in should be their chosen username, or their e-mail address (if it's their username, then the e-mail would be optional).

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Perhaps you could explain why you think it's such a bad idea that you "never understood"? Other than the few extra moments required to type an email address compared to some other user name (and yes, having to remember which user name you used for each of dozens of websites can be quite difficult, at least for me), what do you consider to be the disadvantages? –  scottishwildcat Jul 23 '13 at 15:56
    
    
How am I going to reset my password? How are you going to notify me if your password database has been compromised? –  Neil McGuigan Jul 28 '13 at 3:48
    
How does that matter? The e-mail would still be an option, just not required. It'd be the same as putting a fake e-mail on your account, you're SOL if anything happens. –  Mike Mersereau Jul 28 '13 at 3:55
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Having the user enter an e-mail address has the following advantages:

  1. The user is unlikely to forget it - unless they use a custom e-mail address for each site.
  2. It's unique. You won't have to have code that suggests other similar usernames when the user's first choice is taken. Though you will still have to check they're not trying to sign up again.
  3. It gives you a way of contacting the user.
  4. It discourages users from signing up with multiple accounts - or if they do they need to have multiple e-mail addresses. You can check for the GMail + trick by looking for that and removing all characters up the @ before checking for existing addresses - though you should store what the user entered.
  5. It's what virtually every other site does so users are expecting to enter their e-mail address.

However, if you can find ways to address the issues raised by the first four points then there's nothing stopping you not requiring an e-mail address. Doing something just because everybody else does it - without fully appreciating or understanding why they do it - is not a reason to for you to do the same.

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But just because every website does it, does it mean that future websites should continue to do it? –  Mike Mersereau Jul 19 '13 at 20:23
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@Revolt - no, but people will expect to be able to use their e-mail address. In the early days of Stack Overflow there were many questions about why it didn't accept signups with just an e-mail address (it used OpenID from day one). That's why it's #5 on my list. –  ChrisF Jul 19 '13 at 20:25
    
fair enough, but I just think that if we continue something that users expect on every website they visit, then there will be no room for innovation and new ideas within websites. –  Mike Mersereau Jul 19 '13 at 20:27
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@Revolt - well Stack Overflow succeeded. If you can find ways to address the issues that the other reasons address then go with no e-mail. –  ChrisF Jul 19 '13 at 20:30
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Usernames are shorter than email addresses, making login easier.

Have an email address as a non-optional field so you can:

  • Drive traffic to your site with email, reducing your dependence on search traffic.

  • Send emails for password reset if a user forgets his username or password.

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User names really only make login easier only if a) you can remember which particular user name you chose for that particular website, and b) you're not using some kind of password manager to auto-fill the login details anyway. Most websites want or need your email address for something or other sooner or later anyway. So why bother forcing a user to enter two bits of information about themselves, one of which they'll probably have to invent and remember, when they could enter just one that they already know? –  scottishwildcat Jul 23 '13 at 16:02
    
@scottishwildcat, You make a good point. For my website, I use both, because I don't users to see each others' emails for privacy reasons.Personally, I tend to use the same username over and over across many websites, so it's not hard for me to remember. –  E L Aug 1 '13 at 20:30
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I'm not sure that I've seen websites having username as a mandatory email id. But, they do allow symbols '@' and '.' in a username so that people can use their email id's to register.

I believe this is easier for people to remember their one login id/username across different websites. Also, if you have an email id that is unique, that would also guarantee that the username you are trying would be unique. Secondly as you said, it does allow the websites to contact the users, and thus get in touch with them. Another reason that I can think of is, using emails reduces the number of fake accounts one can possibly create, thus allowing the website to verify the authenticity of the user (to some extent).

Also, these days much common practice is to allow once to use their existing Facebook or Google accounts to login, which is easier from the user's perspective to do, but unless one thinks about all the privacy issues which is easily dismissed these days.

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I believe in usernames which user shouldn't think/ponder to remember. For users who use only a few websites in a daily basis, or if your website gonna have a distinguished impact in user's real life, requiring the user to adapt a username is considerable, but if your website/webapp is developed to be yet another any thing already exists, you may consider helping the user by not requiring him/her to remember usersname.

The other important reason is that usernames are unique in websites, so there is a chance that the username user wants to adapt would be already taken and the user becomes forced to add a suffix/prefix to his desired username. So I think the best practice is to avoid dedicated usernames in most scenarios.

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Obviously other than being able to then contact users... But even so, having it as an optional field would do that just fine.

Maybe you are thinking that you don't want to send mails to users who did not opt in to get messages, so giving them the opportunity to leave out their e-mail address will be the perfect way to opt in or out.

But the problem is that, as soon as you have created a site with accounts on it, you need to be able to contact each user for one special case: when the user forgets their password and/or user name.

Users do this all the time. They create an account, and even if they remember the user name because they use it consistently accross sites (and many users do not act this way), they forget the password. Then they want to reset their password. And please in a quick, automated fashion, without writing the admin a mail and waiting for him to take care of it.

So imagine that a user has an account, and forgets their password. If you have their e-mail, you can send the new password to it, problem solved. If you don't, the account is lost. You cannot ask a user who forgot their password to provide an address in their password recovery request, because then everybody can get a password for a known username sent to their own address.

If you are making a site where you outsource the user management completely (e.g. only accept logins via OpenID or similar), then the above does not apply. But once you do your own user management, the ability to contact a user at a known address is not optional.

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