We have a display picture, where we show the initials of a user if his picture is not present. Example, John Doe will see JD enclosed in a circle.

There are profiles where we have multiple users in a group.

Example: John Doe, Xyz abc, Xyz Wta and there is no group name as such. In such cases what is the best way to display initials. I got suggestion to split the circle like a wheel and show each initial in a quardent.

What is the best way to do some thing like that? Considering we will Limit number of Users to three at max. I cannot even think of how to show it.

  • 1
    Maybe you need to do something completely different for Groups? They do not match the solution you are using for individuals who do not have a picture. e.g. you have to be careful this does not become a "square peg, round hole" solution.
    – SteveD
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:36
  • Yes. But I am trying the Wheel kind of display. But I myself was thinking how do they do normally. Aug 4, 2016 at 11:45
  • Are there likely to be more more than 4 people in a group? If there are more than 4 then how would you decide which 4 initials to show?
    – SteveD
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:31

4 Answers 4


I would not make it a goal to show the initials of all the group participants. My hunch is the interface will become too crowded.

As a reference, these icons are from Cisco's Spark app:

enter image description here

They signify:

  • A conversation between multiple people in an unnamed group.
  • A user without a profile picture. Spark chooses not to display initials for users - perhaps to differentiate them from the groups below. In my opinion, this is only useful if most people have a profile picture, or you will end up with multiple identical icons in the list.
  • Two groups with initials "O" and "C".

Showing multiple participants by stacking the icons on top of each other is fairly common. Just stack two, not more - two means "multiple" in this context.

Perhaps you could show the initials for the frontmost person, but I remain hesitant.


I guess there are limited options:

  • make the circle bigger
  • Make the initials smaller

For Groups, a larger circle and smaller initials is the only way to make this work when you split the circle into 4 quadrants.

  • NO this is for email so not clicking and JS. Aug 4, 2016 at 12:07
  • Can you put up a mock-up so that we can understand the context?
    – SteveD
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:26
  • You just mentioned Email and JS, which wasn't mentioned before. We don't discuss JS here because this is a UXSO.
    – SteveD
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:34
  • As you mentioned clicking on circles to drill down, I was trying to say that is not possible. Example we are currently showing like this but what if there are two or three initials ? What is the best way to show? Aug 4, 2016 at 13:25
  • I updated my answer
    – SteveD
    Aug 4, 2016 at 13:36

Maybe represent each individual in the group with a smaller circle, like this:

Larger groups:

Group representation - 9 people

Smaller groups:

Group representation - 4 people

This would give you more circles to work with for representing larger groups.

  • But that does waste space... Aug 4, 2016 at 18:13
  • This would be equivalent to a single profile circle, pending that the size was acceptable. But yes, if you want to show all members, it will get crowded. Aug 4, 2016 at 18:18

Do not show any initials.

The concept of profile for single persons and groups is entirely different, so you shouldn't show the initials for people in the group.

Think about this: you're adding a lot of friction, in visual terms this is really confusing, and in terms of usability nobody would get what all that noise means. It's really important to understand whether you're dealing with an individual or a group, so you shouldn't try to disguise the group as an individual.

But if the reasons above are not enough, think about lack of versatility. Take a look at a very common case you will face:

Group A was formed by AB, CD, EF and thus you show the initials for these individuals.

Now GH and IJ join the group, while AB and CD leave it.

Now the group is.... ABCDEF even though AB and CD are not part of the group. Furthermore, GH and IJ are not represented, which makes no sense at all.

So.... you can change the group to EFGHIJ. Easy, right? Well, think twice: now anyone that interacted with ABCDEF will not know who is EFGHIJ!

In short: get rid of those initials: they're really bad UX, they bring a lot of problems, and they bring no benefit at all!

PS: Also, aren't you allowing your users to name a group any way they want?

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