Should a Man or a Woman Design Your Site?

Thanks to Michael Martine for
turning me on to a short but interesting article Web Sites Have Sex Appeal.
A study at the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom found that the
sexes reacted very differently to sites when surfing the web.

The study found members of each sex preferred websites
designed by their own sex.  Not a big
surprise since so many web designers design what they like, as opposed to what’s truly best for their audience. 


Nevertheless, a look at the web sites of 32 higher education
institutions found 94 percent displaying a masculine orientation and just 2
percent a female bias, the study said. This was the case, even though all the
schools’ target audience was almost equally balanced between the sexes.

I’d love to know what criteria they’re using for “masculine orientation”
and “female bias”. But my guess is, the
numbers probably aren’t too far off.   Be sure to check out Michael’s take on men
designing websites for women

This all begs the question – should you design your website differently for men than for
women? The answer – YES YES YES – so much
of a yes I could write a whole book about it.  But what do you do when you’re trying to
appeal to both sexes?   There are ways to do that, too. (also another books worth of info on
this) Note – when I say design websites
I’m talking about more than just the template, I’m talking about navigation,
usability, content, copy, etc. 

Here are just a few things to keep in mind

 Men don’t ask for directions. They’ll fumble around your site for a while
til they find what they’re looking for.  Women won’t waste the time. If they don’t find what they’re looking for,
they’re gone. You better make darn sure
your site has clearly defined pathways to get visitors to their relevant

 Women are gift givers. (when was the last time your hubby went out and bough Christmas gifts
for your relatives?  When was the last
time he bought Christmas gifts for his relatives) Your site has to have clear pathways to gift
certificates, clear options for including gift messaging, and an easy way to
bill one address and ship to another. 

 Women categorize products differently than men.  You can’t just say “shirts” and “dresses”.  Women think of big picture categories – like “summer
cocktail outfits.”  Look at how you
categorize your products.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I mention it because
I think there’s a very big issue here.  Should
companies hire more women to design their websites? Well, I guess that’s one way.  But I’d suggest companies do a better job of
understanding what their female website visitors want.  I have a few thousand ideas on that


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7 Responses to Should a Man or a Woman Design Your Site?

  1. Excellent post. A few weeks ago, I met with a financial services firm to discuss their Web site. We were in the middle of an evaluation of their site when I asked: “So when you designed this site, did you develop male and female personas?” The (all male) team just looked at me. “What do you mean?” It never crossed their minds that women may use – or want to use – their site differently. Marketing to men is of course different than marketing to women. That’s just common sense.
    All of the men in that room were married. One would think they had noticed the slight differences between them and their partners. I already look forward to my next meeting ;o)

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