Say you want the user to enter their full name into a form. Even if you request just this, you may not know which order they put their names down (for example in countries like China, surnames come first).

I would think the best approach would be to have labels such as: example if what I'm thinking of

I'm not sure if this works as I'm not sure if every culture has a first and surname, or if they have additional notions, or call them something else. For example if in China they put their surname first, what word would we call their "first name"?

Plus some people have another name for the country they are living in. For example a person may have an English name if their Chinese name is uncommon in the country.

  • Here is a great answer for your question : ux.stackexchange.com/a/15778/79263
    – dimshik
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 9:58
  • @dimshik but "full name" can lead to ambiguous user input for example "James Smith"; is James the first or last name?
    – Celeritas
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:12
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    In China they put the family name first — “surname” means “last name.” Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 11:09
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    What do you try to solve here? What are the benefits of one input field? If it isn’t hard to use (which I can’t imagine), it is at least prone to errors and hard to correct things technically. Why can’t you stick to the commonly used three inputs?
    – jazZRo
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:32
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    Possible duplicate of Merging firstname/last name into one field
    – Crissov
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:23

2 Answers 2


To decide what is best for you, you should answer those questions :

  • Are you collecting the person’s name just to have an identifier in your system? If so, it may not matter whether the name is stored in
    ASCII-only or native script.
  • Or do you plan to call them by name on a welcome page or in correspondence? If you will correspond using their name on pages
    written in their language, it would seem sensible to have the name in the native script.
  • Is it important for people in your organization who handle queries to be able to recognise and use the person’s name? If so, you may want to ask for a Latin transcription.
  • Will their name be displayed or searchable (for example Flickr optionally shows people’s names as well as their user name on their
    profile page)? Or will you want to send them correspondence in their
    own language, but track them in your back-office in a language such
    as English?

Source: W3C - Personal names around the world

I the article above there is a reference to a related dilemma:

To split or not to split?

If designing a form or database that will accept names from people with a variety of backgrounds, you should ask yourself whether you really need to have separate fields for given name and family name .

This will depend on what you need to do with the data, but obviously it will be simpler, where it is possible, to just use the full name as the user provides it.


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    This answer seems to focus on the language or encoding of the name while the question is asking about the syntax or order of name "parts".
    – DasBeasto
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:12
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    @DasBeasto You are correct that the article the answer is based on relies on the language the name is written in, but the conclusion is that the field should be design according to the data you want to extract from the name. If you want to know the users first and last name maybe you should split the name field...
    – dimshik
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:02

Focusing on the "how to ask" component of your question, my intuitive thought would be to ask for "personal name(s)" and "family name". I feel these definitions are sufficiently translatable between different naming conventions, but if you wanted to elaborate it's pretty easy to describe the distinction.

Personal names are the ones that tell a person apart from their siblings, family name is the part they inherit. The latter also accurately describes patronymics (where a parent's first name is modified as the child's last name, e.g the Russian "Ivanovich"). If you wanted to be even more all-encompassing you could even say "inherited" in place of family but that's probably a jarringly uncommon turn of phrase.

As for the ordering, having gathered the family and personal name you could simply ask the user which order they'd like them displayed. Keeping the concepts of personal/family vs first/last separate also avoids problems like if a Chinese user put their personal name last, and so it was stored as such in the database, and the database is subsequently queried with the wrong name (for example if the user was asked the question differently by a helpdesk worker, and this time gave the family name instead of the "last name"). It also avoids the common data entry mistake of a data entry worker entering a name wrong (if they were looking at a paper document in last, first order but the interface was ordered first, last

  • Thanks. Let me know if you think of any for middle name.
    – Celeritas
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 8:05
  • @Celeritas Middle names are also "given" or personal names, as far as I'm aware. If there was a box labeled "given names", the plural would indicate to me that I should write my first and middle name in that box
    – Toadfish
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 8:07

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