Default gender, "Male" or "Female"

  • Should our default gender when selecting male/female on the dropdown list be based on the local sex ratio (if a country have more female than male then female is the default value)?

    It depends. What are you creating? How and where are you marketing it? The number of men or women in a country is not what makes the difference. For example, a website about makeup will probably have more female visitors than male, even if it's a city of mostly men. Also, it might be worth considering whether you need gender. Article about this:

    So if someone forgets to enter their gender, you plan on recording it as whatever the default is?

    FYI you're asking for sex not gender, at least presumably gender is less relevant. Besides, sex ratio is usually almost exactly a 50% split with about 2% margin of error--I would never assume a default based on numbers, even ignoring the reasons others have stated below

    Even sex isn't a simple Male/Female - at least allow a blank option for the few who don't fall into either

    @BenBrocka there are a number of countries with large skew's in the ratio due to selective abortions.

    IMHO, I'd first ask if this is even information that is really important to collect.

    I will add two more options, "Unknown" and "Indeterminate"

    Or you could just add one more option of "I'd rather not share".

    Why do you need the gender? Is there a real, true, legitimate need for it? How about just leaving it out entirely?

    I always want to select "Alpha-Male", but those radio-buttons never let me... @Ben Brocka: Don't assume a 50/50 ratio on each site. Depending on the topic you could get more than 90% of the one or other gender (tech/gadgets/cars vs. diet/cooking etc.)

    Choose whatever produces the least number of clicks for the majority that are filling in the form. If the site is directed for women then women. Same for men. If it is a 50/50 split, then provide a 'please fill in' option instead to not put anyone's nose out of joint.

    Building on what @JuliusA said, check out the ISO standard for the representation of human sexes: Not known, Male, Female and Not applicable.

    Every time I come across a form with male / female / rather not say, it annoys me. It should be male / female / other / rather not say, at a minimum. I am happy to disclose my gender, if the form actually gives me an option to do so accurately.

    Add another "why are you asking?" question. If you have a real need to know, then that need will *significantly* influence any answer I might give. In particular, if you actually need to know, then you need to consider that gender is a lot more complex than the answers on offer here suggest. If you *don't* have have a real need to know, then don't ask. If you have to ask, have a look at this similar question:

    @Darren you seem to be neglecting the cost of an error, which can be much more than a single click, and the probability of which is increased by your suggestion. A plausible scenario is it's 60/40 women/men. By your logic, the form should have "woman" checked, so that only 40% of people need to click to switch it. The problem is, each time a man mistakenly neglects to switch it, it's now wrong and the recipe for fixing it is likely *far* more complicated than a single click, if it can even be found or even exists at all. For this reason, perhaps it's better to not have a default.

    That said, it's sad if a site is directed for women more than men or vice versa. I'd much rather not ask at all, and not be asked, as a user.

    default: none. Users may want to avoid sharing this information anyway, so make the default and empty option.

  • You don't select a default at all

    Using a drop down list or a radio group - you let the user decide - and this also prevents accidental submission of a form without the user setting this value (assuming it's gets validated) because there is no other way of validating it - only the user knows their gender so there is no right/wrong validation other than 'is it set'

    Here are examples from Windows Live ID sign-up, Facebook sign-up, Yahoo sign-up

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    In fact in my own survey of over 100 high profile sign-up forms:

    Only 20% of those sites asked the gender of which:

    • 20 did not pre-select - by using one of the options above.
    • 2 forms prefilled with the option 'Female' (bebo and foursquare)
    • 0 forms prefilled with 'Male'

    Furthermore - of the 20 that did not pre-select:

    • 2 sites - TypePad and Etsy, gave options to not provide gender via a third option:

    enter image description here

    Grooveshark go the extra mile (although I'd at least expect consistency)

    • to try and make it clearer by using symbols on their sign up:

    enter image description here

    • or in their 'edit profile' they use another version in which the wording has clearly been carefully considered and accounts for the gender/sex issue as to how the user identifies themselves:

    enter image description here

    Got an external article you can link to where you provide more info about it all?

    @ChrisMorgan Sorry, *wish* I could say yes but no not at the moment - not enough hours in the day!

    Check out the wording on the Grooveshark one. Remember that some people do find it difficult to answer these questions. Maybe you could edit your answer to include this example?

    +1 Good answer, my thoughts exactly. Would be interesting to do some empirical testing to find out how many people would "forget" to change the gender (i.e. how many males are registered as female for bebo and foursquare).

    @billynomates1 - thanks! I have added grooveshark - but using the current iconified version

    Not sure that Grooveshark's symbols actually make anything *clearer*. (What if I want to log in as male but I'm not wearing a baseball cap???)

    +1 for mentioning the "rather not say" option. This is a pretty sensitive subject. When Google+ launched, having a published sex was mandatory. This caused an enormous stir. Randall Munroe wrote a comprehensive post on the subject.

    @RogerAttrill - The one I got a screenshot of was from the "Edit Profile" section. I'm surprised they differ, really! But my point was the wording of "I identify as" includes people who's legal sex differs from their gender.

    @billynomates1 - ok I didn't realise there were going to be two different versions depending on the form!! Ive added that one as well because it does address some sensitive isues. Thank you.

    TypePad and Etsy have the right idea: no default, and offer an option to rather not say. Depending on the audience, you may want to offer more choices.

    "Rather not say" is a step in the right direction, but it still excludes "I'd like to say, but I'm neither!"

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

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