One of the websites I administer has had an active user registration and log in for a long time, which was mostly used to confirm users and send merchandise. So far, there has been no user to user interaction where the users' profile would have been exposed to other users. For this reason, users so far registered without a nickname and with only their contact information.

This site now gets an upgrade where users can comment on other users' generated content, thus requiring a nickname for at least those users, that upload content.

So far the implementation steps in consideration have been:

  • new users register with a nickname
  • existing users can pick a nickname in their profiles, but are not forced to do so
  • users without a nickname uploading content get prompted to pick a nickname in the upload process

How or what other processes would you suggest in this scenario?

Should all users be prompted to register a nickname?

Should it be a concern that quick users might grab desired nicknames?

Should the website suggest nicknames based on the users first name and DoB, for instance like: *Would you like to register John_75 as your nickname?*

2 Answers 2


I'm willing to bet that you are more concerned with users not getting their desired nickname than the user will ever be. Right now, users have no reason to care what their nickname is on your site because it doesn't show up anywhere on your site.

Because of this, I recommend not pestering your users with any obtrusive process or notification (especially a one-off email) that takes them out of their way. The least obtrusive option is to assign a temporary nickname and allow them to change it when they make their first comment on the site.

Depending on the nature of your site, you can either use their real name (first+last) or a generic id (user+rand_number). Use a generic id if there is any reason to believe that a user would not want their real name visible.

Here is how I would handle it:

enter image description here


One of the simplest methods that I have seen for this is to assign every user a nickname based on their UserID. So one may be "user157" and another "user18" etc. Of course most people won't like these names, which is the incentive to get them to change them.

It would also help to send everyone an email letting them know that this is the case and that their nickname on the site will be "userxxx", but if they would like to have a better name and get a good nickname before they are all taken, that they can do it by following a link or by changing it in their profile.

For users that don't post content or comment, this will not affect them. But for those that do, they will likely change it fairly quickly.

  • That might be worth considering. I'd probably use a random id instead of a real database id in order to not reveal such, but your suggestion eliminates at the very least the problem of having to ask users for an user nickname when they want to upload something. This merely requires a check that users with a generated username can still once pick a user nickname of their choosing. Good ideas here, ty.
    – kontur
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 14:49
  • 1
    Instead of basing it off of a DB ID or a random value I'd suggest using either the username they used to sign into the account or the portion of their email to the left of the @ sign. Both are commonly something the user would consider acceptable to use as a display name. Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 18:53
  • 3
    @DanNeely using any portion of their email address would be a privacy violation. You would need their express permission to do that.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 19:08
  • Agree with @JohnGB here - the same goes for using the first and/or last name. I think "user" + random would be the choice that prvodes most privacy and security.
    – kontur
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 20:50
  • I don't think I've ever seen user+random# used; I've seen username or left half of email used many times in the past when a site decided it needed a pretty name but didn't collect one at registration. I'm not certain which was used since in most cases for me the two values are identical. Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.