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The Difference Between User Names and User IDs

I hear people refer to their “user name” for accessing web sites all the time.  That is not a surprise, since that is often what a web site will call a field.
 
User Names aren’t particularly well understood by users of the web.  I don’t mean the actual user name itself – it could be as simple as your first initial last name, depending on the population of “users” that are being provided privileges.  Web users certainly understand that.
 
But User Names should be thought of as merely a component of a user account record that is identifiable by a User ID.  That allows for it to be altered – names do change, after all.  Email addresses do as well.  The User Name and password should be the key that the user has to access whatever privileges go to the unique User ID that it is attributed to.  And those privileges get more sophisticated all the time, and can need to translate across differing web-based networks.  An association’s member User ID might need access to the members-only section of the main website, but also access to additional database driven sites that are actually hosted elsewhere and sometimes by differing organizations, such as email lists, subscription services, mobile apps, and the like.
 
It is the web site’s developer/manager responsibility to make sure the web site organization understands this.
 
So the goal becomes, find a unique User ID for each user that the user doesn’t need to know, while making anything that the user DOES need to know editable, to some extent, by the user, while leaving the data manageable AND identifiable by the administrative organization that is using those User IDs.  After all, an organization doesn’t want a User ID shared by multiple people if the usage of the ID is paid for and is only supposed to be accessible by the person that paid for it.  Intentional sharing is a problem to be avoided for most.
 
This is why you see User IDs actually keep track of devices and IPs used to access as part of the information retained for many sites as well.  Facebook knows what devices and IPs you generally use.  So does Google.  So do many other sites. User IDs keep getting pushed to be more sophisticated in what they contain, what they maintain, and how they are used.
 
So if your organization uses “logins” or “user names” as the identification terminology for accounts, it is best to start thinking of these items as just part of the User ID.  It will open your organization to thinking about how these accounts can be beneficial for your organization going forward.
Kessler Freedman, Inc.