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Login with email vs. username

Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Good practices | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments »

Today we’ll discuss why is much better to ask the user to login with email/password instead of username/password. I’ll be short and punctual, i don’t like long blabbing articles the essence of which can be written in a line, so:

  1. The email address can’t be already registered (obviously), and if it is, you registered it and you can request a new password
  2. As a consequence of the above, the user can’t forget his email. You may be having what, 2-3 email addresses? You can’t forget them
  3. One less field on the register form. Everybody hates long forms
  4. You make the users use a real name, instead of s_87757 or pinkygirl1995 or other crap like that

If you think of something else, drop a line and i’ll add reasons.

13 Comments on “Login with email vs. username”

  1. 1 Dan Burzo said at 6:14 pm on March 9th, 2009:


    I think the best solution depends on the context. Email is superior to username for single-user-based applications (couldn’t find a better term), where there’s no need to publicly identify the user in a social context.

    For the many social applications online, it might not be appropriate to identify the user by their email address (for privacy concerns), so you still need some kind of “screen name”.

  2. 2 admin said at 10:16 pm on March 11th, 2009:

    Yeah, i’m thinking what a mess would be if Myspace would use full name of users… Social networks is a science of it’s own.

  3. 3 Terry Kavanaugh said at 5:22 pm on March 18th, 2009:

    I agree with Dan. I would also say that while you or I may not like “pinkygirl1995”, there may be someone (or a group of people) who do like the name.

    Maybe there is a Susan Smith, who graduated from school in 1995 and who goes by the nickname “pinkygirl” with her friends? If so, she may really, really, really like the name and for stickiness reasons (for fun and to keep Susan coming back), maybe the application should display it in some way.

    But I also agree, it is kind of silly. But silly isn’t always a “bad” thing….

  4. 4 admin said at 5:24 pm on March 18th, 2009:

    it basically depends of the application and it’s purpose

  5. 5 Overview on login forms | Usability Thoughts said at 12:48 pm on March 24th, 2009:

    […] discussed the other day about the login with email vs. username and I came to the conclusion that it depends on the type of the application, if it’s social, […]

  6. 6 Razvan said at 1:30 pm on March 31st, 2009:

    I like the idea of using emails as login keys because, with the user’s consent, you can tap into a public API from servives like Google or Yahoo and pick-up extra information that the user might need to fill in his profile page or that can help make your product more useful to him.

  7. 7 Virusescu said at 1:03 pm on April 18th, 2009:

    You’re right admin.
    Maybe I’ll just state the obvious, but registering and logging-in doesn’t have anything to do with data displayed on site.
    If you deal with a big “social network” you can simply let the user choose his Display Name.

  8. 8 Sandro Miguel Marques said at 3:51 am on August 29th, 2010:

    Adrian, I plenty agree with you.

    The simple login db table


    The login auth read Email and Passwd fields and the name displayed could be the Nickname

    Simply is the best

  9. 9 Dork said at 10:13 am on October 1st, 2010:

    i could think of some cons –

    1) if username is the same as the one in the email address, i.e. etc, the user actually needs to type the whole email address, probably double the number of characters or more.

    2) i generally don’t like to be “made” to do something, and “making the users use a real name” probably won’t work. i wouldn’t put my real name anyway.

    3) internet usernames – everyone has one. that’s the whole thing about the internet. for one, i don’t like to have to specify my actual full name, for anything really.

    while i agree with the points you made, i think the best option is to give users a choice. some sites even go further to add in openID etc.

  10. 10 Josh said at 8:11 pm on October 7th, 2010:

    I dislike screen names, but what about the privacy and usability concerns associated with using an email address to log in? Can I set up an account using If so, I’m not going to see communications about my account, and Steve’s going to get spammed.

    If the site requires me to verify that I own the email address, that introduces an extra step and a bunch of friction as my signup is interrupted by the need to go find the email and click its link.

    Also, if the email address is a unique account identifier, can I plug other people’s emails into the signup form and find out whether they have accounts already? Shouldn’t that be private information?

  11. 11 Mitchell Pilot said at 7:34 pm on December 2nd, 2010:

    I don’t like email addresses as login IDs (although I see I am the outlier here).

    The original concept of using both a login ID and password (as opposed to just a password as was done in the early days) is that the ID can be a public identifier and only the password need be kept private. Because of spam abuse, email addresses cannot be made public, thus making them a poor substitute for a user ID. Adding a “screen name” while still using the email address to login further complicates what should be very simple: your login ID is public, your password is private, your email address is a data item in your account (also private).

    In my mind, the trend toward using email addresses as login identifiers is a touch of laziness on the part of website designers. As you mentioned, it avoids the problem of checking for duplicates, and of storing an additional data item (the username) in the database. It does this at the expense of using as a personal identifier something that was never meant to be that.

    I will admit that I am biased because I use a disposable email service that assigns a different email address to every forum I visit; I have many email addresses and cannot remember any of them. I can remember my username (for the few sites that let me use one).

  12. 12 Joe Burke said at 6:30 pm on September 15th, 2011:

    I would say that email for login is the only appropriate method, but that does not remove, for some applications, the requirement of a username. The two should b e treated as separate entities used for different purposes.

  13. 13 Moein said at 1:48 pm on December 13th, 2011:

    Well I had to implement a login form and the model for it
    So let me tell you if the programmer isn’t lazy he can’t easily resolve this problem
    I did it this way
    I added a check box after the email saying if the user wants to use a username and if the check box is not checked then I generate a unique random username and save it in the table
    Then the user can login either with email or the username(just like twitter)
    And he can always change the username as he likes
    Like this you can have the both side happy right? 😉

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