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I currently have a signup form that has a username and an optional email field.

I want to make this form appear simpler by getting rid of a field. What has been your users' experience with only using email for username? (Email would then become non-optional). Personally, I don't like this because my email is longer to type than my username. But, I am seeing this more and more. Is it the future?

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marked as duplicate by Hynes, Charles Wesley, Code Maverick, Matt Obee, greenforest May 20 at 20:38

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Beside the advantages, please also consider that relying on the uniqueness of e-mail addresses might be a mistake. Less tech-savvy users may have only a "group e-mail addresses" (I know various families where all members share one e-mail account), that you are forced to provide the means for changing account names (no-one can guarantee they can keep a given e-mail address forever), and that your site may be leaking personal data by giving away during the registration process whether there is already an account for a given e-mail address. –  O. R. Mapper May 1 at 18:26
    
@O.R.Mapper Users with a "family email" will most probably also use a "family account" on most sites. –  maaartinus May 25 at 18:21
    
@maaartinus: Of course, this may be my subjective experience, but constellations such as one family-wide e-mail account, but individual per-person instant messenging accounts seem frequent to me. Generally, the reasons must be considered: Such families often have "one family e-mail" because there was one e-mail address set up automatically by their ISP and they never bothered to find out how to set up more. It does not mean they intentionally want single family-wide accounts everywhere, and hence they do enter their individual names when creating accounts elsewhere. –  O. R. Mapper May 25 at 20:09
    
@O.R.Mapper This makes sense. For "crowd" services like instant messaging, sure. For something like online grocery or computer store, probably less. I'd stick with the email and add a qualifier later, if needed. –  maaartinus May 25 at 21:28

7 Answers 7

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Email might be longer to type but it has other benefits:

  • It is much easier for me to remember when I go to log back into the site
  • I am very unlikely to run into the problem that the username I want is already taken (it is frustrating to have to do several tries at signing up to a service because of this).
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+1. Your first listed benefit is the most obvious. I have never heard the second considered but that is a good point. Your username can never be taken because nobody else has your email address. –  JDelossantos May 1 at 14:16
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"it is frustrating to have to do several tries at signing up to a service because of [taken user names]" - I concur, but I also think it is a non-issue in modern web applications where users usually don't have to run through the registration process to find out whether the intended user name is taken, but that very information is displayed and updated live (via AJAX requests) right next to the user name input box as you type. As for the first item, I strongly disagree that it is easier to remember which of my 10+ e-mail accounts I used for a particular site. –  O. R. Mapper May 1 at 18:29
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"It is much easier for me to remember when I go to log back into the site" This isn't always true. For example I use more email addresses than usernames which means I'd have more trouble remembering which email I used versus which username. –  Bakuriu May 1 at 19:00
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One big drawback is if two people want to use the same email address (such as a husband and wife). Before you say that's unreasonable, consider the elderly or others with little computer experience who may not know how to set up more email addresses and check them. –  ErikE May 1 at 19:34
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For people who have a multitude of email accounts, what do you do when you forget your password? Some sites ask you to enter your username to get an email? Do you check all 10 accounts, or do you have to keep track of what username and email address you use for a site? –  JDelossantos May 2 at 12:50

In this instance I think the number of characters to type is a trivial issue, not least of which because users will likely have typed their email addresses countless times before so it will roll off their fingertips, also, if you correctly define the input element, browsers can assist with autofill.

This leaves the advantages:

  1. Guaranteed uniqueness (on the assumption the user hasn't lied)
  2. Memorable (on the assumption a throwaway account isn't being used)

If you want to capture a users email for account verification or subsequent mailing purposes, then both 1 & 2 become invalid, as even with a separate input they would be a concern.

If you are interested in going down this route, you can also look at implementing OpenId which handles much of the grunt work for you, and is a technology users will likely be familiar with already.

A subsequent consideration may then be, what is the purpose of a user having a username? If you're building a community where members will be identified by their usernames, it is incredibly in-opportune to then rely on posting email addresses on public pages.

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+1000000 for OpenID. It is easy for the user and more secure. –  Jan Hudec May 1 at 17:43
    
+1 for mentioning the importance of considering the purpose of the username. –  O. R. Mapper May 1 at 18:15
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It's not guaranteed unique if more than one person in a family shares an email address. I have personally encountered this when providing a service to the employees of a company--and the employees would receive hundreds of dollars for participating, so it was actually a problem when the site required distinct email addresses for each person. Some elderly couples neither knew how to create another email address, nor felt any need to. –  ErikE May 1 at 22:17
    
ErikE, this is also true of usernames being shared. Uniqueness here refers to identification of an account on the site in question. –  SW4 May 1 at 22:22
    
"Uniqueness here refers to identification of an account on the site in question." How could that not be achieved by any forced-unique identifier, such as a username? –  Michael Kjörling May 20 at 10:59

Some downsides to this email-as-username approach:

1) I guarantee 90% of your users will end up using their actual e-mail password as their password for your login. There goes all of the security.

2) E-mails don't always last forever. There's nothing like having to type in a decade old e-mail address that doesn't exist anymore every time you want to log in. I still have to remember one of my old ISP provided e-mail addresses, because not many websites support switching usernames. Also, once my spam-absorber hotmail account was breached by Chinese hackers, it became permanently locked, and many logins went with it.

3) E-mails are a lot longer to type

4) A smart internet user probably has multiple e-mails, which makes it harder to remember which one goes where.

To answer your very last question:

Is it the future?

Unfortunately yes. I died a little inside when Youtube made the switch.

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For point two, you can always allow the user to change their email. Point 3 is kind of irrelevant as it's only a few extra characters (usually username@gmail.com). Point four, most people have one they use for websites. –  Chipperyman May 1 at 23:45
    
+1 Point 2 is excellent! We have the same issue at home where I wanted to share my SharePoint online environment with her (via Live-ID). It turns out that her secondary e-mail address hasn't been in use for several years. Updating it locks the account on Microsoft for 30 days. For security reasons. changing alternate email - what happens during 30-day waiting period? –  Benny Skogberg May 2 at 11:25
    
Point 1 is moot. A user blindly typing the same password in multiple sites gets no security, whatever you do. Moreover, unless you want to misuse the fact that your user types in their email password in your site, there's no security risk. –  maaartinus May 25 at 18:31

I think the foremost reason why you should not choose to use an email address an username, is because your email isn't a username, it's an email address. Don't confuse your users, be clear.

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I think most of the time it will become a boring job,

Usernames has to hope on an email for the person to recall later. If not, it's rare for a user to use multiple usernames for a particular web application etc. Also, sending details back to the user's email gives a certain level of security it's very important point of both parties.

if we registering and create a username password for the website or application,it's too much clicking and filing, users not like to do it, so we can use easier way to give them a good user experience in our website or application,think about that,

i think if used to signup or log in using Google/FB/LinkedIn account etc, it's really easier and user friendly for the user side, effective

An email address is easier to remember.it Should always be unique per user, One less thing you need to ask them to register

and other solution is used an Open-ID, "Open-ID is a safe, faster and easier way to log in to web sites. it's an open standard that allows users to be authenticated by certain co-operating sites using a third party service, allowing users to consolidate their digital identities."(Wikipedia)

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Finally, allow email AND username feels like a good thing. Complexity of UI does not increase.

For example : Twitter do that.

Most of users should found the login method they want :
- by username
- by email
- by a simple click

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Using the user's e-mail address as their account identifier has several advantages:

  • It's easy for most users to remember
  • It's reasonably guaranteed to be unique on the site
  • If multiple sites adopt the scheme, the user has a few fewer usernames to remember

It also has a number of drawbacks:

  • It makes it easier to find out if a given person has an account on a site (consider Internet RFC 7258 / BCP 188)
  • It makes it perhaps more likely that the user will re-use their email account password
  • Not all people have individual, unique email addresses, as this tale is a nice (albeit very likely completely fictional) example of; in the real world, as has been pointed out several times in comments to other answers, quite a few people use shared email addresses
  • Email addresses aren't constant: less tech-savvy people in particular change email addresses; domain names expire and are taken over by others or sold between individuals and/or companies; services come and go; all this means that you at a minimum must allow for an authenticated flow for somehow changing the email address that is used

Consider having it both ways. Allow usernames that are proper email addresses, and if you detect a username that is a valid email address either pre-fill the email address field with it or don't display that entry field at all. If the user provides some other form of username, ask them for an optional email address as well. This validation could be anything from a naiive regular expression covering only the base cases, to a full SMTP VRFY triggered by an AJAX request (just be careful to not risk causing disruption to the SMTP server).

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