We are creating an activity stream for our application and I have run into a challenge related to username display. Our usernames are keyed on email addresses, therefore, First Name / Last Name are not unique. So where I would want a string such as (simplified for explanation):

John Smith uploaded an image.

I am currently stuck with messages like [email protected] uploaded an image.

Alternatives I've considered:

  • John Smith ([email protected])
  • Display email address on hover
  • Link name to user's profile (not yet a feature)

All of the options I've discussed come with UX issues. My goal is to make the stream event read well and accurate.

Does anyone have any better alternatives?

4 Answers 4


If your design allows for showing little avatars next to user names, I'd suggest doing something similar to GMail/Inbox - generate a small image with user's initials, with somewhat unique background color. When positioned properly, it would give you some space to align user's e-mail address next to it.

User initials

You could implement Gravatar to retrieve the avatar user linked to his e-mail address, thus giving more personality to the system.

Going further, if you're showing an image you could only display user's first name in the main notification text, and show the rest aligned to right edge of the container, like this:

Aligned right

If you notice that showing user's e-mail all the time isn't needed, you could show it on hover on the name box, along with some other useful info or actions (direct message, show profile, etc.).


Have you looked at some of the popular websites such as eBay, Amazon... they usually display it with greeting, like; "Hello, John" and then the word "John" has a link to some sort of dropdown or popup menu which when you click it displays the user's username, full name, and other important information... etc.

You have to be careful of how you displaying this...! what if you run out of space/room for instance if the username length was larger than 20 characters, then you either to display out the rest of the user id or end it with the "..." as to what we tend to use it for end of our paragraphs!

Personally I don't think it would be useful to display both first name, last name and email... besides why would you need to display the user's user id or name, don't they know that already...

Why not just simply stick with "You uploaded an image"?

Greeting a user when they first login is another story. It allows the user to know that they've logged in with the right account. Say if they had a few account with the same app or website, for instance I've two eBay IDs, one for selling and the other for buying... and i think this is something that I check every time I go on eBay as I can't remember which one of my ebay account i used last time... hope you get the idea and I haven't confused you!

  • It is an activity sharing application which means any user can see the actions performed by other users. So "you have uploaded an image" doesn't make any sense until user click on his "last activity link" if there any.
    – UXbychoice
    Dec 9, 2014 at 9:19

Since it is an activity based application, I'd recommend to have a look on JIRA, git etc.

Your goal is easy read and I'd suggest to show first name or first + last with link. (Git merge first and last name altogether, which is a big readability issue, at least for me for longer names.

You can also add picture with the activity feeds depending on the real estate.

I wont recommend emails because they are long, hard to read and most of time doesn't make any sense quickly.


I can see two possible answers to your problem. A) adds an image to the user and therefore let users distinguish different John Smiths by picture. This option only works, if the users know each other (Jira, Facebook).

If the users don't know each other, I'd go with something like B) where you underline the name and display a popover on hover (or tap) which gives more detailed information like job-title, email or whatever you may have.


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