Gender-Inclusive Design: Sense of Belonging and Bias in Web Interfaces
We interact with dozens of web interfaces on a daily basis, making inclusive web design practices more important than ever. This paper investigates the impacts of web interface design on ambient belonging, or the sense of belonging to a community or culture. Our experiment deployed two content-identical webpages for an introductory computer science course, differing only in aesthetic features such that one was perceived as masculine while the other was gender-neutral. Our results confirm that young women exposed to the masculine page are negatively affected, reporting significantly less ambient belonging, interest in the course and in studying computer science broadly. They also experience significantly more concern about others’ perception of their gender relative to young women exposed to the neutral page, while no similar effect is seen in young men. These results suggest that gender biases can be triggered by web design, highlighting the need for inclusive user interface design for the web.