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What was the initial intention of displaying the user's name along with the avatar on the top right of the app-bar?

This is fairly common in some sites like Facebook, OneDrive etc., while other sites do not display the name and just the avatar alone (Stack Overflow, Twitter).

Is there a definite reason why it's done? I am asking because I am researching the need for it, whether we should display first name alone or first name and last name. My basic research says that users aren't really bothered by it. However, I would like to know if there is any agreement on the topic among the community.

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One of the reasons why the username is at the top right is because most people of the world are right handed. There is a study (I'll try to cite if I could find the link again) that shows us that right handed users are more comfortable seeing things on the right (though they don't see them first necessarily). That's a reason Ads also appear on the right.

Having said that its common knowledge that are gaze is maximum around middle extremities(the left edge and right edge of a square in the middle of your screen with about a 75% width). To the left you have your product / site logo. To your right you have your name/ avatar!

Why is the full name used in certain sites? Well in my opinion, I think your question has the answer.

  1. A way to look at this is to look at the risk of mistaken identity. Your avatar thumbnail may not accurately depict who you are (blurred photo / full body pic on a tiny thumbnail).

    Eg: You forget to log off of facebook on a shared computer. Imagine what would happen if someone commented on a post thinking they were logged on! The same with Enterprise / Business Apps like OneDrive, Google Apps etc.

    Sites like StackExchange (no offence here, BIG FAN)? What's the worst that could happen? You could give an answer? No big deal.

  2. Sites that allow the user to change their account (linked accounts) by one click usually have the full name at the top right. (In Facebook you can turn into a page, In Google Apps you can switch b/w multiple accounts, company, personal etc.)

Although more or less its now a form of convention, the above could help you decide whether you want to display the avatar / first name or full name.

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It's a layout flow convention. You'll have the logo on the upper-left area of your layout because the western eye starts to read from top left to bottom right. Then, one of the ways to add other important information (and it's NOT the only one) is to use the next available zone, which is top right.

Some sites use a left sidebar to display this kind of info, and I didn't notice any real difference in terms of users having problem with that.

Some sites use a RIGHT sidebar, and while it may feel unnatural for western users, it really doesn't have much issues either and people in large screens tends to adapt to it really fast. So, in the end, it will depend on your layout design decision.

As for where did this start, it really didn't start with Facebook, sites in mid 90s already used this approach (with or without avatar, I mean the positioning) because, like I said, it's the most natural zone in your layout to place that info.

Finally, about your first name / last name question, the most appropriate way should be to use a "Name to Display" field, so people can choose which name to display. This is important because some people don't like their names and some people has issues with privacy. This being said, for banking, insurance and other corporate sites, it's better to display the complete real name since it's based on legal documentation and information is protected, so nobody else by the user will see it

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It has become a standard. If people need to login to your site where would you suggest that one place the information to login; how would display that the person is logged; and how would you show what account was logged into (users should know in the odd event that they're in someone else's account)?

It would need to be on the top of the page, above the fold. The left side is where the logo goes as in the US we read from left to right and the top-left is the first place peoples eyes go to. This was especially true in the 1990s when people were first migrating from printed material to the web.

By now the upper right is an accepted and known place for displaying the login information.

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