What are the best practices for gender-inclusive form design?



I think it’s to ask pronouns unless you’re in a medical or legal context where you have to get more fine-grained, but I’d love to have a listing of resources or examples.


Hi Alison! Stephanie Slattery does an excellent talk on exactly this topic.

Here’s a link to it on their website.

It includes the slides, a recording, and additional links too :slight_smile:


I think the most important thing is to stop and consider whether you actually need to collect gender at all. Oftentimes, after some reflection, it’s not really necessary.

If collecting gender is actually necessary, then a text box that lets people self-identify (rather than radio buttons) is probably best.

If you can’t provide a text box, and must stick to a pre-determined set of choices, (for example, to match census data, or insurance company forms), then it can be helpful to explain what that data is for. For example, you could say “This must match the information your insurance company has” or “For legal purposes, this must match your government id”. And then let people also self-identify separately.


There’s some great relevant info from @max in another post:


One thing I learned today is that for some folks providing pronouns at all is stressful/anxiety-provoking. It’s also bad when it’s not stated whether that field is editable and whether there will be any negative effects to putting garbage in the field.

So for example, I changed the contextual help copy for the “Personal Pronouns” field (after a couple of iterations) on this site to: “for example, she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/zir. If you don’t want to provide pronouns use — or something else in this field. It’s required so cis people enter pronouns too. It’s an editable field. We welcome you regardless of pronouns!”


I saw a conference talk once (at Elaconf - can’t remember the speaker) that mentioned all of these items with an additional note about making it easy to change your first name, or if you need to collect legal name, adding a nickname feature.



The UK’s gov.uk guidance (and the associated wiki discussion) is a good start: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/design/gender-or-sex

The gist is that you probably don’t actually need to know the user’s gender or sex for your service to work.

If you do need it, you’re probably better directly asking for something like a pronoun (the info you actually need), rather than gender, which isn’t a reliable indicator of pronoun choice. The only exceptions are things like medical services.


Agreed. I have no idea why the majority of services that do ask for gender ask at all. As Alison stated, I can understand when it’s for a medical or legal context, but if I’m signing up for a social network (outside of a dating app, maybe) then I don’t see it being relevant.


Yesterday I filled in an equalities monitoring form and was glad to see a range of gender identities listed, including genderqueer, genderfluid and nonbinary, plus an “other - please specify” at the bottom.

I think it’s great to have a list of the common ones, plus a self-identification box and a “prefer not to say” box.

Also to be avoided: stereotypical graphical representations of gender identities.

And as others have already said, know the difference between sex and gender, and ask whether this information needs to be collected at all.