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Inclusive name inputs – because not everyone is called Chad Pancreas

Recently, “Stinky” Taylar and I were evaluating some third party software for accessibility. One of the problems was their sign-up form.

two inputs fields, labelled 'First name, minimum 2 characters' and 'Last name, required'

This simple two-field form has at least three problems:

U Nagaharu was a Korean-Japanese botanist. Why shouldn’t he sign up to your site? In Burmese “U” is a also a given name: painter Paw U Thet, actor Win U, historian Thant Myint U, and politicians Ba U and Tin Aung Myint U have this name. Note that for these Burmese people, their given names are not the “first name”; many Asian languages put the family name first, so their “first name” is actually their surname, not their given name.

Many Afghans have no surname. It is also common to have no surname in Bhutan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Tibet, Mongolia and South India. Javanese names traditionally are mononymic, especially among people of older generations, for example, ex-presidents Suharno and Sukarno, which are their full legal names.

Many other people go by one name. Can you imagine how grumpy Madonna, Bono and Cher would be if they tried to sign up to buy your widgets but they couldn’t? Actually, you don’t need to imagine, because I asked Stable Diffusion to draw “Bono, Madonna and Cher, looking very angrily at you”:

Bono, Madonna and Cher, looking very angrily at you, drawn by AI

Imagine how angry your boss would be if these multi-millionaires couldn’t buy your thingie because you coded your web forms without questioning falsehoods programmers believe about names.

How did this happen? It’s pretty certain that these development teams don’t have an irrational hatred of Indonesians, South Indians, Koreans and Burmese people. It is, however, much more likely they despise Cher, Madonna, and Bono (whose name is “O’Nob” backwards).

What is far more likely is that no-one on these teams is from South East Asia, so they simply didn’t know that not all the world has American-style names. (Many mononymic immigrants to the USA might actually have been “given” or inherited the names “LNU” or “FNU”, which are acronyms of “Last name unknown” or “First name unknown”.)

This is why there is a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation and why companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.

The W3C has a comprehensive look at Personal names around the world, written by their internationalisation expert, Richard Ishida. I prefer to ask for “Given name”, with no minimum or maximum length, and optional “family name or other names”.

So take another look at your name input fields. Remember, not everyone has a name like “Chad Pancreas” or “Bobbii-Jo Musteemuff”.

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2 Responses to “ Inclusive name inputs – because not everyone is called Chad Pancreas ”

Comment by Toshi

And then of course there are all the cultures with multiple surnames, e.g. most Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. Perhaps we just need 2 name fields, “display name” and “legal name” (only where actually required, e.g. for employers). Thanks for drawing attention to this!

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