Order of "female" and "male" in survey form

  • In a survey form, which options would be the best (user friendly)?

    1. Are you male or female? 
o Female 
o Male

    2. Are you female or male? 
o Female 
o Male

    "Gender" as title. Not sure why do you want to stress "Are you....".

    And those who don't identify themselves as either one, what should they mark?

    @BennySkogberg The form is clearly not asking "Do you identify as..."

    So the short answer to your original question, @Pradeep, is apparently a resounding "neither."

    @MonkeyZeus I saw a question on here recently that asked something like: "what if my birth country no longer exists?" What indeed. Why is nationality so darned important? Age? Height? Weight? This is the *Internet*, no one knows you are a dog. (and in many cases it is true)

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    @nocomprende I am a dog! Also, what's the harm in including more data by collecting non-binary respondents' responses? This can pollute your data and lead to a lot of false correlations if you're pigeonholing people into one gender or the other.

    @MonkeyZeus A form cannot make observations of a person, it relies on them to provide data, by identifying themselves. Giving an answer on a form to a question about yourself is literally identifying yourself.

    I would in any case think it would be a bad idea to have the order in the heading different than the one for the radio-buttons - ie. if the question is "Are you male or female", then the button for "male" should come before "female". As for the order in the question - I may be chavunistic (and I am a male) - but I'd say "male" before "female"... because "male" is the root of the word "female" too (just as "man" and "woman").

    @BaardKopperud : Actually, ‘male’ is *not* the root of ‘female’; only the ending of ‘female’ was changed to match. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=female

    Just have the order randomized for every visitor, then on average _everyone_ will be annoyed by the inconsistency, but at least you then know ;)

    Again with the sex/gender conundrum. People, just go standard. It's a good (enough) standard!

    @4rchit3ct You can identify as whatever you want, but the answer will always come back to "are you a male or a female?". There's no such thing (or nearly no such thing) as being an "almost male" or "male and female".

    I see another problem there: The female/male in the question is redundant to the answer. You mention it in the question and the answers. You can eliminate it from the question and then focus on the order of the answers. "Please specify your gender: female/male".

  • tl;dr: No matter what you do, you will be in good company. Purely as far as order goes male-first seems to be the traditional preference and seems to match linguistic expectations of most users. Despite this modern western tech companies seem to opt for female-first.

    Cultural connotations

    A lot of the answers dive into western liberal notions about sexuality and gender and the perception of the question itself. Although this is an interesting and fascinating philosophical question it's hardly relevant for non-western cultures where asking for sex is still a normal question. This can be normal because of grammatical reasons (addressing a person without knowing their gender is not possible in some languages (or at the very least most indo european languages don't allow you to talk about a person without knowing their gender)) or simply because a lot of cultures embrace different gender roles.

    Especially if you are addressing a purely western audience it is however a good idea to consider whether you need this information. From a UX perspective decreasing friction by not including the question (or making it optional) is advantageous, however it comes at its own cost.

    So, back to the actual question

    Usage across texts and the entire internet

    Without a particularly strong UX reason to deviate from the norm the best rule of thumb is to match the expectations the user will have.

    One way to get an impression of user expectations is by looking at Google ngrams which shows term usage in books (only including a minimal amount of forms of course):

    enter image description here

    Another option is looking at google search results: 21,100,000 vs 570,000 results respectively for "male or female" or "female or male".

    I checked the same for Dutch, German and Slovak and this seems to hold true across a variety of western cultures, so from that point of view mentioning 'male' first seems to be the best choice.

    Usage exclusively on registration forms on most popular websites

    Secondly I wanted to take a look at what most popular (as defined by the Alexa site ranking) websites use:

    • Google: non-binary dropdown form with 'female' first
    • Youtube: see Google
    • Facebook: binary with 'female' first
    • Baidu: 'male' first
    • Wikipedia: doesn't ask
    • Yahoo: free form input with suggested option list with 'female' first
    • Google India: see Google
    • Amazon: doesn't ask
    • Tencent QQ: 'male' first
    • Google Japan: see Google
    • Windows Live: non-binary dropdown, 'male' first
    • Taobao: Need Chinese phone number to get to 'personal information' part of the form
    • VK.com: 'female' first
    • Twitter: Doesn't ask
    • Instagram: Doesn't ask
    • Hao123: See baidu
    • Sohu: Doesn't ask


    My conclusion from this is that: 1) Traditionally 'male' first had a strong preference 2) Silicon Valley companies seem to strongly prefer 'female'-first.

    Either way: You will be fine whatever you pick and considering the diversity of orders and inputs types on popular registration forms it's safe to assume that users will not be too confused no matter what you do.

    idk about the others but facebook is definitely not a binary anymore, hasn't been for at least the past 2 years.

    +1 for the linguistic aspect. From your data, I have an impression that big companies what to be projected as not being sexism by placing female first, which is overreacted. If they really aren't sexism, then the options should be written as how they flows from the minds, which obeys linguistic rules.

    @TheoreticalPerson When I go to the homepage of Facebook, not logged in, then it definitely is binary for me: https://www.facebook.com/.

    Non-binary gender has nothing to do with *western liberal notions about sexuality and gender*. The first country to offer a third gender option in the passport was **Nepal**.

    As for your second conclusion (about Silicon Valley preferences), I wonder if that's mostly tied to alphabetical order.

    Speaking of “the linguistic aspect”, note that in many languages it's nearly impossible to form a grammatically-correct sentence without knowing if the subject is masculine or feminine. This may be the reason the question is asked in the first place.

    +1 for your deep dive research and listing down how major players asking this question or even if they are asking at all.

    @Ooker maybe it was just an alphabetic choice. At least that's how I would choose the order.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM