Website design: The gender divide

Website design: The gender divide

Whether you’re a lad or a lady, chances are you’ve never given much thought as to whether the websites you visit were designed by a man or a woman.

Fe/Male

And why should you?

Surely there’s not much difference anyway, and any differences that may exist in our offline preferences have probably all but been erased by the ubiquity of androgynous platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Well, not so fast.

Research suggests that our gender can have a significant impact on our online preferences – from the kind of navigation we like, to the linguistic and visual content we enjoy on a site [1]. So what? I hear you say. When it comes to gender-focussed websites (such as Jimmy Choo for women, or Hackett for men) surely the website has been designed with its audience in mind, regardless of the developer’s gender?

Birds of a feather

Given that the IT profession currently attracts a larger percentage of men than women, it’s likely that most of the sites you come across have been designed and developed by blokes.

Ordinarily, no-one would probably care about such a fact. But recent research suggests that maybe we should.

When it comes to websites, it would appear that we instinctively prefer those that have been designed by members of our own gender. Men prefer sites designed by men, and women prefer those designed by other women [2] – an effect which seems to be stronger for the ‘fairer sex’.

This single, seemingly innocuous factor – the gender of your developer – could actually have significant implications for the effectiveness of your website and its ability to reflect (and cater for) the preferences of your audience.

Mirror, mirror…

But what can you do with this information?

Whoever your audience, if you’re designing a website that’s predominantly targeting one gender, it may pay to work with (or take on as a consultant) a designer who reflects the gender of that audience.

Who knows, beyond adding that mysterious same-gender effect to your website, it may also encourage more women into the male-dominated arena of design and development. Which, given the prolific number of all-women shops and outlets that are now online, could be a rather nice little money-spinner – both for you, and for your designer.

 


 

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[1]  Moss, G., Gunn, R. and Heller, J. (2006). Some men like it black, some women like it pink: consumer implications of differences in male and female website design. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 5: 328–341.

[2]  Moss, G. and Gunn, R. (2007). Gender Differences in Website Design: Implications for Education. Proceedings of CITSA.

 

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NN
Best-selling author of "Webs of Influence" (Pearson). International speaker, consultant, columnist at Marketing Week.