Some popular best practices on length and data type for common database fields.
Title Max 35 chars (Mr,Mrs,Miss,Ms,Dr,Rev,Sir,Lady,Lord,Captain,Major,Professor,Dame,Colonel.) Gender Unknown(0), Male(1), Female(2), Indeterminate:Male+Female(3), Male from Female(4), Female from Male(5), Not Applicable(9) First Name Max 35 chars (no spaces) Last Name Max 35 chars Display name Max 70 chars NameSuffix Max 35 chars (OBE, MBE, BSc etc) Address Flat Number/Name Max 35 chars Building Number Max 35 chars Street Max 35 chars Town Max 35 chars State/County Max 35 chars (Optional) Postcode/Zipcode Min 6 chars Max 9 chars (some countries use non numeric codes) Country Max 70 chars (ISO 3166) Email Min 7 Chars, Max 255 chars A full validated email address Phone Number Max 15 chars (no spaces) ITU E.164
Setting sensible maximum sizes improves data quality by minimising copy/paste errors, if First_Name accepts 2000 characters then sooner or later somebody will paste the entire contents of an HTML email into that field.
Some of the recommendations above are somewhat larger than real data samples might suggest is necessary but they provide space to accomodate possible future changes e.g. the formation of a new country with a very long name.
Splitting address into several fields will simplify the design of automated letters & mail merge.
Use unicode, other text encoding schemes will not prevent users from entering carets or umlauts, they just make displaying the text difficult.
The 'Display name' can be constructed from a concatenation of Title+ First + Last name, it is often used for unofficial 'known as' names , e.g. if William Helkathhazzurim is known to everyone as Bill Helka.
“I'd call it a new version of voodoo economics, but I'm afraid that would give witch doctors a bad name” - Geraldine A. Ferraro
UK Data Type Standard(pdf) - e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF)
BS7666 - The British standard for the representation of address information
IETF RFC 3696 - Checking email addresses
IETF RFC 2822 - Data standard for email addresses
ISO/IEC 5218 - Gender codes (additions are not limited to those in the standard)