Names change, and so do email addresses
We’ve recently been rolling out a new internal application. At our organisation, users have an email address which is generally
email@example.com, or something like that. When a user logs in to the application, the app will look them up using their email address and figure out what parts of the application the user should be able to use.
One day we got a ticket for a user who was adamant that they had access but when we looked in the application, we couldn’t even find them in the system! Probing a bit further, it turns out that they had recently changed their name, and as a result, their email had changed.
There are lots of common misconceptions around names, including that names never change. But people change their names for a variety of reasons:
- In the UK and US, many people choose to change their last name when they get married, or if they changed their name and subsequently divorce, may change it back.
- People who identify as trans or non-binary may choose to change their name to better reflect their gender identity.
- People may choose to select or return to a name which they feel better reflects their cultural identity
- They may not like their name and want a better one
When we designed the system, we didn’t think of this. My email address hasn’t changed for years. But in retrospect, it’s so obvious that we should have.
Inclusive design means thinking about all of our users, even ones who don’t yet exist or that we have yet to identify. Inclusive design makes the experience better for everyone, and it takes almost no effort or cost. Even if you don’t think you’ll benefit, you never know who might.