If you have been anywhere near the popular media in the last few weeks, you have heard about of the studies by Moss, Gunn and Kubacki (in press, 2005). This is the University of Glamorgan trio that has garnered attention for having "proved" that what catches men's eyes on the Internet is different from what catches women's eyes. Shocked? Didn't think so.
Actually, to be fair to the authors, the media (in search of a sound byte) has reported both more and less than what the research really says. What Moss and colleagues have really reported is that:
Still waiting for the shocking part, aren't you?
Actually, the research is not quite as simplistic as that. Earlier research by members of this team demonstrated that male and female graphic and product design preferences tend to be distinguishable (Moss, 1999; Moss and Coleman, 2001.) Further, they demonstrated that designers tend to prefer designs by same-gender designers.
Would the same thing, they wondered, hold for Web sites? After all, Moss and colleagues observed, males comprise the majority of industry leaders and IT workers today. Most Web sites are designed by males. Yet there are many industries where women are (e.g., cosmetics) or are becoming (e.g., higher education in the UK) the majority consumer group.
Do Web sites have genders? And, if they do, what implications would this have for the effectiveness of the brands?
To identify the sex characteristics of Web sites, Moss, Gunn and Heller (in press) evaluated 60 Web sites, half designed by women and half by men across 24 characteristics. They identified 12 characteristics that robustly differentiated those designed by males from those designed by females. Most saliently, they reported that:
based on their statistical analysis, female Web sites:
with respect to visual presentation, female sites:
In contrast, male Web sites use more crests and contain more pictures of men.
Based on these findings, they concluded that there is a continuum of the male/female elements of aesthetics in design. While designers use a broad array of these elements, they tend to produce sites using elements consistent with their own gender. (See examples of male and female designs at the Moss and Gunn blog.)
But does it matter?
Moss and Gunn (2005) extend their work to higher education sites to explore whether the male/female "gender bias" of a site correlates with its desirability by visitors of either gender.
In order to test this, they randomly selected 32 of the 121 Higher Education Institutions in the UK and evaluated their Web site pages based on the sex parameters identified in the previous study. Each site was assigned a "gender bias coefficient" based on the predominance of male or female characteristics on the home page.
Of the 32 sites selected, 30 presented with a male orientation. The predominance of male-oriented sites is not surprising. A post hoc telephone survey of 28 of the site designers revealed that 93% of the sites were developed by male only or mixed gender teams. They do not, however, report whether the two sites reflecting a female "gender orientation bias" were designed by women.
To test the impact of a site's gender bias on its perception by users, Moss and colleagues presented 64 students to rate seven home pages on a score of 1-20. The to-be rated sites included three designed by women, three by men and one commercial Web site. No gender bias values are reported for the sites. Participants were not given any particular guidance how to rate the sites.
Moss and colleagues used the rating scores to derive a "liking" factor which measured a given participant's relative preference for a site across the seven. Analysis of variance showed that men showed a significant preference for sites designed by men, whereas women showed a preference for sites designed by women.
Women and men have different aesthetics. People who have been married already knew this.
This work subtly reinforces some things that usability people have known for quite some time as well:
Moss and colleagues' work does not only demonstrate the obvious, though. It subtly emphasizes the importance of two parameters of design that usability practitioners evaluate less systematically: brand effectiveness evaluations and message/content testing.
On the Web, brand effectiveness reflects an intersection of site usability and brand presentation for target user groups. It makes sense then, that as the Web becomes more integrated with other corporate communications channels, usability testing will begin to enfold brand effectiveness evaluations more routinely. Further, the branding and branding effectiveness of the Web will be integrated into corporate communication strategies.
Message effectiveness testing is similarly up and coming. Usability professionals have spent the last decade establishing how to create usable navigation. Now that we can get people to the content, we need to focus on creating the parameters of persuasive message design.
Moss and colleagues, like Tannen before (2001), observe that there are gender differences in the way we use language ‚Äď women are more conversational and informal whereas men are more self-promoting and use more "expert" language. This observed disparity may have implications for designing content to establish and build trust between an organization and its target consumer group. In short, to be effective, the language of the message must reflect the aesthetic of the target consumer group.
If you know what the target consumer group is and you know what their basic aesthetic is, you can design for that group independent of your gender.
Moss, G.A. (1999), Gender and Consumer behaviour: Further explorations, Journal of Brand Management, 7, 2, 88 - 100.
Moss, G.A. and Coleman, A. (2001), Choices and preferences: experiments on gender differences, Journal of Brand Management, 9, 2, 89 - 98.
Moss, G.A. and Gunn, R.W. (2005). Websites and services branding: implications of Universities' websites for internal and external communication, prepared for 4th International Critical Management Studies Conference.
Moss, G.A., Gunn, R.W. and Heller, J.A.G. Some men like it black, some women like it pink: consumer implications of differences in male andf female website design, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, in press.
Moss, G.A., Gunn, R.W. and Kubacki, K., Optimising web design across the new Europe, International Journal of Applied Marketing, in press.
Tannen, D. (2001).You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Quill.
Thank you for the gender/age/education differences insight into design. As an educator of high school students this is a key point in helping me and my students decide how to present critical content is our school web page projects.
Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox
HFI may use ‚Äúcookies‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúweb beacons‚ÄĚ to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users‚Äô PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.
HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.
HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.
In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or ‚Äúdummy‚ÄĚ test data.
HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users‚Äô experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.
HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI‚Äôs legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.
If a User includes such User‚Äôs personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User‚Äôs personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.
Information about Users that is maintained on HFI‚Äôs systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.
$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.
4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.
Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‚Äėper module‚Äô processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.
Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.
There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.
The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.