Build Good Database Rules For Your Registration Form Fields

Database Rules Managing an online community can grind to a halt or can be very painful if you do not create good database rules for your registration form fields. Whether you have a brilliant new idea and you are working out of your garage or if you are an established community with dozens to hundreds of employees you must ensure your are collecting clean data. In the long run this will help your IT load, reporting and will prevent affiliate fraud to some degree.

Here is an example registration form with numerous fields to complete upon community sign-up.:

Registration Form Fields

Without implementing form field rules or restrictions you may soon find your community includes hundreds to several thousands of members named “%$^$^$, %$^%$” that live at “;;;;;;;;;;;, ;;;;;;, ;;;;;;;” in the city of “)()()(” and the state or province of “@@@@@@@@@@@@@@.” Believe me this happens and I have audited millions of member accounts of a community that took the wild wild west approach with their form fields. This can be especially problematic if you do not have any affiliate fraud counter measures in place to detect bots and scripts cranking out new accounts in return for a hefty payment.

This also can call into question the quality of your community from clients, partners or advertisers. What if you providing your client access to your community membership and they request to review a data sample of your membership registration? Your relationship with that client will quickly evaporate if 50% of that sample contains members named “#$@&#$%, #$@%#$,,,,.” What if you inform your advertisers that your active membership is 5,000,000 and they want to review a slice of that membership? When they find a chunk of your membership were created by bots you will see that ad revenue stream come to a trickle.

One way to protect this from occurring and greatly helping your IT load and reporting capabilities is to build rules and restrictions for each field form. Let’s look at some of the fields and come up with some solid rules you can implement.


Do not allow numbers and do not allow these special characters in the first or last name fields: !@#$%^&*()+;:”<>?[]{}+

There is no reason for any name to include any of those characters. Make sure you allow the apostrophe for valuable members with names like O’Brien (So many sites do not allow the apostrophe. It drives me crazy). However, limit the amount of apostrophes in the name fields. I would allow two at the most because you never know if you snag a member that uses their maiden name and married last name combined: Helen O’Brien-O’Malley. It could happen.


The same restrictions for name can apply for address, but you must be familiar with your locale. Addresses in Vietnam are very different than addresses in the United States. For example, in the US you might want to allow the # symbol but again I would restrict the number of times it can be used for the mailing address street form field. Perhaps a dash is acceptable for zip or postal code, but none of the other characters will ever appear in a legitimate US zip code. Learn how addresses are written in the locales you service and adjust your form field rules for each country.

Phone number

This one is quite easy; allow only numbers. If you only accept numbers add a helpful near that field showing the user the only acceptable phone number entry is 5554446768. If you allow dashes then show this example; 555-444-6768. Do not allow letters or the slew of other special characters.

Drop downs

Some fields should never be open for the user to enter data. These fields include Country, Language and Date of Birth. If it is scalable you might want to provide a drop down for State/Province that depends upon your Country selection. You can also provide a drop down list for City that is driven by your State/Province selection.

Requiring clean data upon registration will prevent the unsophisticated bots from attacking your registration process. It will not eliminate your fraud risk, but will minimize it slightly. Not having those junk accounts will reduce your IT load and will make for a cleaner database.


Author: Garth O'Brien provides SEO, Social Media and Community Management consulting services. He can help boost the online presence of a small local business or global enterprise corporations in both Google and Bing.

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