Reflector

Best Practice · Last modified July 15, 2009

Reflect back the user's current public identity, and present a link to view the public profile (if any) for the current context. If a contextual profile is not applicable, present a link to the user's primary public profile.

Provide ways for the user to edit her display name and image.


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What Problem Does This Solve?

A user needs to know what public identity she is participating under when creating content, and needs to be able to edit the public identity she is participating under when viewing her profile or creating content.

When to Use This Pattern

  • Use wherever a user may participate and may need a persistent way to get to her public profile.
  • Use when a user is about to participate and wants to change the display of her attribution.

What's the Solution?

  • Reflect back the user's current public identity back to him.
  • Present a link to view the public profile (if any) for the current context. If a contextual profile is not applicable, present a link to the user's primary public profile.
  • Limit the identity information to the display name and display image. There is no need to show age, gender, location, or contextual identity information back to the owner/user. Save that data for the public view.

Editing the Display Name (using an AJAX overlay)

  • Provide an easy way to change the display of how the user will be seen.
    changing the name on a reflector
  • To reduce identity theft and spam, encourage the use of a display name that does not expose an authentication id or email address.
  • Provide the means to post in a "publicly anonymous" way to reduce the need for additional, separate identities.
  • In contexts that require it, allow a user to post using an alternate, separate identity.
  • Place the control at the bottom of a content submission form so that users focus first on their contribution (and not on whether or not they need to change their identity.

Editing the Display Image (using an AJAX overlay)

  • Present a link that gives the user the ability to change their display image.
  • When clicked, open a floating window that displays the set of display images belonging to the user.
  • Allow the user to select one of their existing images (or Avatar) or let them add a new image.
  • On sites with multiple contexts, like Yahoo, let the user decide if the new image should be used in all contexts or just the current context.

Why Use This Pattern?

Reflecting back the name and image a user is currently associated with allows control over that person's identity. There may be specific nicknames or a preferred identity in certain contexts that a person wants to use. Allowing the user to see how she will be seen gives peace of mind as well as a sense of control and ownership on the site, which in turn encourages more participation.