UXPaul McAleer

How Not to Ask for Gender During Signup

UXPaul McAleer

I admit, it wasn't my best idea. I was lured in by an app called Fishbowl that promised me conversations amongst people at my company and industry. And lured is the correct term, pun notwithstanding: Fishbowl had a painful signup process that required use of my Contacts, Notifications, and needed my birthday. At no point during this was the privacy policy prominent, and most screens had no way out.

Then I got to this screen.


This screen is a textbook lesson in how not to do this. Here is why.

  1. I have no idea, as a user, what the app or company will do with this information. Nothing is set here. Is this for demographics? Is this for customizing an experience? Both? Neither? No clue. 
  2. It reinforces the gender binary. The most obvious and blatant problem here is that it reinforces that there are two genders, which isn't the case.
  3. It reinforces the idea that presentation = identity. There is nothing inherently gender-related shown here. These icons have the same head shape (so, kudos there I guess?); otherwise, they have different haircuts, and are wearing different tops. The male icon also has way broader shoulders, which does reinforce that stereotype.
  4. There is no other gender option. It's like going to a building that lacks all gender restrooms: it's not right for people who don't align with these genders.
  5. There's no way out. This was required as a part of the flow, as I mentioned, and there was no way to skip it. No way to come back later. At all.
  6. The icons reinforce white beauty standards. Abigail Plumb-Larrick correctly pointed out on Twitter that, on top of all of this, the icons align with white beauty standards.

This experience, overall, was intrusive and hostile. Asking for gender and reinforcing a binary on top of that is straight up harmful.

For this app, I chose “female” in part to see what would happen. It may have been coincidental (but... let's be honest here) but some of the communities it recommended to me right away were about weight loss and fashion. So... yeah.

Don't be like Fishbowl. Don't do this.