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My app needs to know the user's religion to show the appropriate holidays in their calendar. For example, it won't show Christmas if the user is a Muslim.

The problem is that users may find it very strange that a calendar web app wants to know the religion, and it might even lead to users thinking WTF and they'll leave the app.

Is it good to ask this in the registration form, or is it better to put this in the account settings and let the user discover this themselves when they some time edit their account (and show all holidays by default)?

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Just out of curiosity, will your app default to a diverse set of limited holidays? For example, most paper calendars show the religions of many different faiths and cultures, such as Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Chinese New Year. I understand that there are many many other faiths and holidays, but is this approach not viable for your purposes? As other users mentioned, it might also be important to have a way to include regional, cultural, or secular holidays - eg, anything not determined by faith. –  BlindRorschach Oct 8 '13 at 2:42
    
Top/approved answers confirms a very definite rule: ask straight question. If you want to know "what religion holidays to display", just ask "what religion holidays to display?" –  Oleg V. Volkov Oct 9 '13 at 12:13
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3 Answers

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Rather than asking them their religion, ask them which religion's holidays they would like to show. This both makes it clear why you need to know, and also covers plenty of alternative scenarios that just asking their religion won't:

  • People who aren't of their countries official faith (e.g. non-Christians in US and UK) may want the official faiths holidays marked, because that's when things like national holidays usually are.
  • People may simply be interested in knowing when the holidays of a different religion are, especially if they have friends of that religion.

You may also want to consider that there are many regional secular holidays that they may want displayed as well.

To this end, I'd recommend having a checklist of different religions and regions, and they can pick which they want to show on their calendar.

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Can't endorse this answer enough. There's nothing worse than being asked for apparently random information when there's a simple reason behind it that can be asked in much friendlier way. –  ChrisF Feb 26 '11 at 12:50
    
+1 For having a checklist that allows users to select multiple sets of holidays, would be useful for members of a minority faith (eg: Jews or Muslims in the UK), and for people with devout friends. –  Bevan May 2 '11 at 1:04
    
+1 Living in Singapore, we celebrate pretty much everyone's religious holidays, but you never know that if you just asked me my religion! Moreover, making assumptions about people's interests based on their religion is not just bad usability, it's downright offensive. –  tardate Sep 29 '11 at 16:21
    
(Also, according to Mi Yodeya, Jewish holidays can be slightly different in different parts of the world.) –  TRiG Dec 18 '12 at 22:37
    
Answer is spot on! –  Bart Gijssens Oct 8 '13 at 6:10
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Without explanation, it would seem weird to me why you would ask for my religion. Some people are scared to give away private information without knowing what it's going to be used for. Giving away sensitive info like birthdays, name, and gender could lead to identity theft. Now, I've never heard of using someone's religion used for identity theft, but paranoid people could think so. Also, some people don't ever want their religion to be public because they could get attacked.

If you explain why you're asking for their religion, then I think it's not a big deal. I would give you my religion if you said something like this:

We'd like to know your religion so our calendar app can show the appropriate holidays. We won't display your religion to the public.

If the key selling point of your calendar application is to show religious holidays, then you should ask when they register. If it's just a side feature, then let the turn it on later. Shorter forms have higher completion rates.

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Just an email address and a password is more than enough in a registration form, I realize now. :) –  rightfold Feb 26 '11 at 4:58
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I realize this is an old thread, but I would start with a set of holidays that would be considered the 'default' state, and then ask the user if they want to personalize their calendar adding those that are significant for their culture. Sort of what Twitter and other similar platforms do (although I think Twitter forces you to choose people and groups to follow), you can choose skip the customization or choose your own holidays.

As mentioned above, any set you try to create will have variations depending not only on religion, but on region as well. But you can't expect the user to pick every single holiday themselves either, so I'd try to make the app as localized as possible, maybe combining region and religion to give an appropriate set of possibilities.

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