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I'm thinking of eliminating the middle name field in a form I'm designing. What factors should I consider that tell me if it is beneficial to not ask middle name?

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    Do you absolutely need a middle name for any reason? If you don't need it, get rid of it. Also if your form is going to be used in different regions of the world, the middle name might not even exist for some communities.
    – James Hay
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 6:02
  • There is almost no reason to need a middle name, almost everywhere which implements it make it optional. Also as @JamesHay brought up, it isn't used everyone (Patronymic). I believe it brings no use, and just clutters the design. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 6:31
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    I'd go even further: what's your reason to separate first and last name?
    – peterchen
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 13:02
  • @peterchen for generating mails for instance. Where you template can start by <Mr/Mss> <name in CAPS> <first name>.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 13:24
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    @Walfrat: That First Name - Last Name model isn't global. For a list (unfortunately one of those "I want to scare you but not help you" lists), see here: kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/… --- I would at least consider separating fields by function (e.g. one How-to-address-the-person field, one mail-address field multiline unformatted, ...) and assist data entry with "default behavior".
    – peterchen
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 13:50

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It's really very simple.

Ask what is absolutely required and product will break without that. Not just about middle name, but for any kind of user input, ask yourself this:

"Can the product work without this piece of information from the user?"

If the answer is even borderline close to positive, skip that field. Getting response from a user stops the flow and forces the users to add the data. The best approach is to avoid asking for data.

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  • Agreed, another example of the 'Don't Make Me Think' rule
    – PhillipW
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 14:03
  • yep. Giving out your name is a pretty big leap of privacy. Best not to ask for it if not strictly needed. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 9:24
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In my opinion it is always better to ask for a Full Name in just a single field instead of presenting three different fields to users.

As a full name can be easily separated at backend in order to use it for proper salutation and validations. As being user centric we always have to be at user’s standpoint. There are users who don't prefer to share their middle names but for a few users their middle names are as much significant as their initials.

So, it would be good if we leave it on the users itself that what they want to share and what don't.

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    parsing names like this can be very difficult and could be offensive. If somebody had a non-hyphenated last name "Crosby Nash", for example, backend parsing would assume the last name is "Nash", which would be avoided by asking for the last name. Also, generational identifiers can cause trouble. I have personally seen names like "John James Smith Jr.III" Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:15
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    Most western people believes Chinese last names are actually the first names. So if a Chinese citizen fills the form, how do you know if she added her real name or if she made it "Western ready" (so to speak)? When dealing with information, accurate information is always better than randomness
    – Devin
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 17:03
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    Thank you very much for this lesson. I was particularly concentrating on three properly segregated words as full name, but didn't went through such complicated name parsing. If that is the case it would be always better to ask complete information from the user. Thanks once again. I will take this into considerations into my future design products. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 17:58
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Middle names are useful for disambiguation in name matching. For example, you may have many John Smiths, but only have one John Jordan Smith. The more fields you add, the greater the certainty of the match (e.g. John Smith, whose date of birth is 12/29/95 who lives in zipcode 12345 is much more unique than just John Smith.)

If you have a way of uniquely identifying the user without using the full name(account number, social security number, email address, telephone number, etc), then middle names are superfluous.

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It totally depends on the product and the people going to connect with them.

Getting any information in form from user can help in targeting the audience in marketing if it is a bussiness based product. Basically it can help in analytics and give you pattern or rather i would say any gathered information lead to a pattern which helps in getting the marketing trends. So I think getting a middle name is not bad at all rather you can make it as an optional field.

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