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A user needs to know what public identity he or she is participating under when creating content.

A user needs to be able to edit the public identity he or she is participating under when viewing their profile or creating content.

Simple identity reflector let’s the user know how others will see the attribution on a piece of content.

Use When

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 their attribution.


Reflect back the user's current public identity back to him or her.

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.

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.

Simple overlay allows the user to change the display name associated with the content about to be created.

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.

Simple overlay allows the user to change the image associated with the display name.


Reflecting back to a user, the name and image they are 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 they 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.

Related Patterns


Based on the work of Matt Leacock, Sara Berg and the Yahoo! Social Platform team

As Seen On