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I recently noticed that in the WhatsApp profile section, below the text field for changing my name, there is a hint saying that this is neither my username nor my pin. The form looks like the following mockup (the label "Your name" is only visible in the web version):

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

My concern is that this hint will cause more people to put their PIN into the field as people don't always read all information on a page that carefully and without the hint their PIN probably wouldn't even come to their mind. On the other hand one could argue that people think twice about putting their confidential information into a form, but then I still don't see any reason for the hint.

Has anyone done related research on this or are there even better ways of preventing users from putting confidential information to their publicly available profile information?

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People tend to focus on and remember the most recent information presented to them. If you say "this is not your username or pin" the user will start asking himself "oh god, is this too similar to what I should not type?" and will end up with either something that still resembles their private information or with a result that isn't personally pleasant to the user. Take a look at this article about cognitive bias.

Instead of saying what the user can't do, some positive coaching could be more effective. Something like:

"This is you display name. Choose something your friends can easily recognize!"

Definitively it won't be their PIN.

3

Look at what the confidential information is made of and add requirements that make it impossible to add the confidential information.

For example, the PIN has four digits (ie 1234) which are all numbers. If you don't want someone to enter the PIN, require at least five digits, A-Z or a special character.

In addition to that you can 'guide' your user by presenting the complete keyboard instead of the 0-9 keypad or have the helping label just like in your example.

  • If I understand you correctly, you agree that mentioning the pin is risky but you suggest to go with the label given in my example to guide the user. Then for avoiding the risk of a user entering his pin you would restrict the input possibilites, is that correct? Or is it that restricting the input possibilities requires the hint for guiding the user? Probably my confusion is caused by the fact, that I haven't seen such a hint in other forms yet. Why, e.g., doesen't ux.stackexchange use such a hint in the form for the name? Is it the public information headline that makes the difference? – Marvin Jun 21 '17 at 10:08
  • Yes, that's what I would do. I haven't seen it anywhere else also. I think that is because restricting the user and adding extra text might not be the best idea. – Nick Groeneveld Jun 21 '17 at 11:00

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