This research project started with one form field:
For cisgender individuals like myself, little thought goes into filling out this age-old field. The option I’ve chosen for the past 20 odd years is there, and it makes sense for how I identify. Box checked, radio button clicked, easy peasy.
But this isn’t the case for an ever-growing population of people who don’t fall into these two very binary, very confining categories of lived experience.
“I feel like I’m a person that doesn’t get reflected in forms. It’s invalidating.”
- Non-Binary Research Participant
As Product Designers, it’s our job to ensure our users are having an optimal experience interacting with our product. The aforementioned form field, along with a few others that were highlighted by our research participants, was doing the opposite.
Through our research, we found that certain fields within our forms were creating feelings of mistrust and invalidation. We weren’t creating safe environments for our users. Our first attempts at creating ‘inclusive paths’ in our existing forms (like adding a field for gender pronouns, for example) fell flat. In fact, we heard responses like these:
“You’re creating a dichotomy between non-binary and cisgender folks. It comes off as ‘we’ll do our best to be as inclusive as we can but sometimes it’s just not possible.’”
— Non-Binary Research Participant
So, what did we do about it? We did some research. And some more research. We recognized that this was not a category of lived experience we were equipped to design for, so we spoke to people who could co-create with us.
How else would our product team create the right experience, without being informed by those who are affected by our choices?
We talked to 18 people throughout Canada and the U.S. across a range of identities:
We conducted 30-minute usability tests with each participant where we ran through a prototype of our profile form, which incorporated a new identity section.
Our objective for this research was to better understand how we could create a safe experience for all of our users.
We learned a lot.
Before getting into the key insights, it’s important to understand the space that League lives in — health insurance. We partner with health insurance providers to deliver a platform that makes benefits, health and lifestyle products and services accessible and easy to understand.
Being in this space gets real personal, real fast. The health insurance providers we partner with require a lot of personal information from our users (lovingly referred to as ‘Members’) so they can administer their benefits (sex, smoking status, residency status etc). Again, it’s our job to figure out how to request this information in a way that makes them feel safe and respected.
1. Female/Male ≠ Gender
“Gender is how you move through the world, but sex is more related to your organs.”
— Transgender/GNC participant
Takeaway: First of all, ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary for you to know someone’s legal sex (typically this is only necessary within the health space, government institutions, and on passport applications).
If this is something you need to know, we found that gender as the form field title isn’t the best approach, and that sex makes more sense. In our study, 93% of our participants were adamant that gender is a spectrum and should never be used to describe a field that only has Male and Female as the options.
If you don’t need to know someones legal sex, consider using a Gender form field similar to the one outlined in the next takeaway.
2. The human experience doesn’t fit into a checkbox
“Instead of ‘here are the five options that you can be…’ Tell us who you are.”
— Non-Binary Participant
Takeaway: A big point of contention marginalized users face is having someone else decide their options for them. This makes it especially hard on these users when you’re asking them about their identity, and they don’t see themselves within the options.
When it comes to asking users about how they identify, multiple selections and allowing for custom responses provides your users the opportunity to correctly identify themselves.
3. Why are we asking?
“The first thing I noticed is this [Why are we asking?] link. I’m always asking myself this in forms.”
— Cisgender Participant
Takeaway: Think of this as common courtesy on the Interwebs… Users are giving you their data – the least you can do is tell them why you need it.
Creating these tooltips is also a great exercise to see if you even know why you’re asking for this information and to question whether the form field you’re adding is necessary. Participants really enjoyed these tooltips and wished more forms had them.
4. Preferred is not preferred
“This is the name I use. Not what I prefer”
— Transgender Participant
Takeaway: In our original solution we had a “Preferred Name” field and a “Preferred Pronouns” field. Countless users let us know that Preferred doesn’t work for them.
Their name and pronouns aren’t just a preference, it’s who they are.
We are now using “What should we call you?” when asking users if they use a different name than their legal name. And simply “Pronouns” as the title for our pronouns field.
5. Cisgender folks had no problem filling out their identities and pronouns
“It’s hard to get used to living your whole life in a certain way. I might not understand it fully yet, but I’m open to it.”
— Cisgender Participant
Takeaway: Although a few participants didn’t feel the need to add their identity and pronouns, all cisgender participants were able to add their identity and pronouns without fail.
83% of the cisgender participants also stated that seeing this section would positively reinforce their opinion of a company, because it shows they are keeping marginalized groups top of mind.
We’re excited to implement our new identity section within our products, but this definitely isn’t a case closed situation. There are still a number of perspectives we weren’t able to gather within the first round of research, and we want to monitor and respond when this solution is live within our products.
Check out our roadmap for this project! It helps put into perspective what we accomplished and what we still have to do.
This is a space that deserves attention and there’s still so much to learn. If you have feedback or questions about the research, please reach out! We’d love to hear from you. We’re eager to keep this conversation going and to see how we can continue to be better.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are some resources that might help you gain a more in-depth understanding of this space.
- “Inclusive Inputs” Presentation and FITC Web Unleashed Talk by League’s very own Director of Design, Andréa Crofts.
- “Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion” Article by Sabrina Fonseca
P.s. League is hiring! We get to work on really cool stuff like this identity project every day. If this is interesting to you, check out the open opportunities on our careers page (there’s a lot of them!).