If a user interface only deals with English or European languages, it's usually quite straightforward to split a user's name into given_name and surname. This way, you can easily do things like:

  • "Dear given_name"
  • "given_name's Account"
  • "This item was created by given_name surname"

And so on, translated into various languages.

However, if you've got users from countries such as China, this approach isn't so good. In general, you don't want to address Chinese users using only their first name, but by their full name.

To me, the more global way to separate names seems to be a full_name field and a name_to_be_addressed_as field. So a European user could put 'Joe Bloggs' for the first one, and 'Joe' for the second, whilst a Chinese user could put '宋浩然' for both of them (or whatever they like, of course).

Note that in my situation I do need a full / formal name to refer to users at times.

My question is, how can I name these fields so that e.g. European users get the idea without having to know why it's implemented that way?

Currently, I'm asking for 'Full name:' and 'Address me as: ', but that seems quite cumbersome and unintuitive. I'm also considering 'Formal name:' and 'Friendly name:', but that also seems quite weird.

What would be a better approach?

(I'm in not asking for translated terms in different languages - what I'm looking for are two general concepts that I can then translate.)

  • Why not simply using "Full name" and "Nickname" ? Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:50
  • 3
    Most sites I know use "Full name" and "Display name". Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 10:36
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    @TrevörAnneDenise: Because my display name may not be my nickname. "Nickname" has extra connotations and also may be private or affectionate and not something you want to share with the world. I know it has come to be understood as an alias for "display name" but I would advice against perpetuating that notion. "Display name" conveys exactly what it does and does not suffer from extra baggage. Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 10:38
  • A widely accepted answer to another question was to phrase the preferred name as a question, "What should I call you?": ux.stackexchange.com/questions/15770/…. I did this on my own site's contact form before eventually dropping that field to simplify the form.
    – David
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


The following is an idea that may be simpler to the users but which involves more effort programmatically:

Internationalized Data Model

  • have given_name, family_name and full_name as separate fields in your database
  • in your database, make given_name and family_name optional, full_name required

When users are in the American/European context of your website

  • in your signup form, show given_name and family_name in countries where it makes sense; when they are completed, merge the two fields (and anything else that you capture like title or middle_name into full_name) when you save your record to the database
  • when you display the name, if given_name is available, show that; otherwise show full_name

When users are in the Chinese context of your website

  • In your signup form, show full_name field only
  • When you display the name, always show full_name

Conceivably you would want to either elaborate this for other contexts, and probably set up the full_name Chinese scenario as the default handling.

I specify "in ... context", because you must anticipate that a user might want to alternate; e.g. if a bilingual English/Chinese person in Hong Kong can't find what they're looking for in the Chinese version, that they might switch to English. So they may have created their account in one language and begin using the site in another. Therefore you want to


Indeed a very good question I also deal with at work. We set is as: name(s),; last name,; preferred addressing. Then you can have some options that the users will chose from (radio buttons yeyy!)

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