Disclaimer: Check the date! This post was written way back in 2008. If there are technical things in here, they may be outdated, or there may be better ways to do them by now. You've been warned.
I recently finished a “Members” section of a website for a local non-profit. The primary user base was small, (less than 100) so I didn’t spend a lot of time on building a robust user management system. Basically, a user would access the site, request a login by entering a username, password, confirm password, first name, last name, phone number, and email. After which an admin user (i.e. yours truly) would be notified, log in to the site and approve the account if they knew the user.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Of the 10 users that have signed up so far, 5 of them have used a space character in their username. Is it a problem? No, not in this instance, but I found it to be interesting user behavior. I personally have not tried to use a space in a username in as long as I can remember, but I can’t tell you why. I would assume that a long time ago when I created my first online account, (an AOL screenname if I remember correctly) a space was simply not allowed.
So what’s the point? Simple; users do things you may not expect, and you may not expect things for not-so-valid reasons. (Face it, how AOL did things in the mid 90’s is probably not a best practice.)
On a related note, 3 of the 5 members who used a space character in their name have already “forgotten” their username; they actually didn’t forget it, they just misunderstood the username field to be a full name field, and simply entered their full name on the registration form, and then didn’t know what to enter in the login form. So, the next build of this site will feature much more descriptive, cork’d-like forms, in hopes of solving these problems in the future.