Women and Men Have Different Tastes in Web and Graphic Design

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Women and Men Have Different Tastes in Web and Graphic Design


Companies whose businesses depend on female consumers may want to rethink their website designs--and product packaging, print ads, and any other forms of visual communication, particularly if they were designed by men. A series of studies by researchers at the University of Glamorgan in Wales finds significant gender differences in both graphic design and Web design--and women tend to prefer the designs created by women.

A study comparing the business cards of graphic designers found that women (62%) were-more likely than men (46%) to use non-standardsize business cards. They were also more likely to use card stock in colors other than white: 47% of women and 26% of men used colored stock.

The same study also looked at women's and men's preferences in greeting card designs. Women were most likely to prefer greeting cards designed by women, and men were most likely to prefer those designed by men (study participants were not made aware of the designers' genders). On the whole, women are more concerned than men are with aesthetics and are more willing to choose form over function (see chart below).

A study of personal websites created by Oxford University students found that while there were few differences in website structure/navigation, significant gender-based differences were apparent in both visual design and language (see charts). Overall, the language of male sites was more likely than that of female sites to display overt competitiveness.

Consistent with the findings of the previous study on graphic design, women's websites were more colorful, less linear, and more likely to be 2D than men's sites.

The researchers applied these findings to a study of various universities' official websites and discovered that 94% displayed a masculine orientation, and only 2% displayed a feminine orientation (the remainder were neutral). Another study examined websites within the fishing and beauty salon industries--sectors which skew heavily male and female, respectively. In both industries, the websites exhibited male-preferred characteristics. Interviews with the companies determined that 78% of the beauty websites and 77% of the fishing websites had been designed by males.

The authors note that the proportion of women in IT jobs in the U.S. and U.K. has declined since the 1990s. Only 29% of computer professionals in the U.S. are women. Eight in 10 Web designers in the London Yellow Pages are male.

The authors believe that companies whose primary customers are women should seek out female Web designers, or at least reexamine their website designs in the light of female design preferences. Marketers with gender-balanced targets should also be concerned about the gender-orientation of their websites, advertising, and package designs. [HUMAN BEHAVIOR, ONLINE, MARKETING, OPINION]

GRAPHIC DESIGN CHARACTERISTICS, BY GENDER OF DESIGNER

DESIGN CHARACTERISTIC          GENDER DIFFERENCES

Color                          Women are more interested in and
                               adventurous with color.

Dimensionality                 Men's work is more likely to be 3D,
                               women's to be 2D.

Function versus aesthetics     Men are more concerned with function,
                               women with aesthetics.

Linearity                      Women's work contains more rounded
                               shapes; men's is more linear.

Representation of human forms  Women tend to depict women, men to
                               depict men.

Technicality                   Men's work is more technical.

SOURCE: "Choices and Preferences: Experiments on Gender Differences," by
Gloria Moss and Andrew Colman, published in Brand Management, Vol. 9,
No. 2, November 2001.

VISUAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PERSONAL WEBSITES DESIGNED BY WOMEN AND MEN

CHARACTERISTIC                                             FEMALE  MALE

2D appearance                                                 17%    7%
2D & 3D appearance                                             5%    7%
3D appearance                                                  7%    7%
Straight lines                                                40%   77%
Both straight and rounded lines                               13%    7%
Rounded lines                                                 13%    0%
One color in typeface                                         23%   27%
2-3 colors in typeface                                        47%   70%
4-6 colors in typeface                                        27%    3%
Black & white background/frame                                33%   40%
Single-color background/frame                                 37%   43%
2+ colors in background/frame                                 23%    3%
Formal typography (regular letter spacing and height)         87%  100%
Informal typography (irregular letter spacing and height)     13%    0%
Formal images                                                 10%   40%
Informal images                                               50%   13%
Mix of formal and informal                                    23%   10%
Mostly black or blue typeface                                 50%  100%
Mix of black/blue with other colors in typeface               13%    0%
Mostly pink, mauve, or yellow typeface                        37%    0%
Static images                                                 67%   53%
Dynamic (moving) images                                        7%   10%
Both static and dynamic images                                10%    3%
Animate objects                                               63%   23%
Inanimate objects                                              7%   27%
Both animate and inanimate objects                            10%   13%
Female figures in photos                                      13%    0%
Male figures in photos                                        43%   77%
Both female and male figures in photos                        43%   23%

SOURCE: "Some Men Like It Black, Some Women Like It Pink: Consumer
Implications of Differences in Male and Female Website Design," by
Gloria Moss and Rod Gunn, University of Glamorgan, Wales. … 

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Women and Men Have Different Tastes in Web and Graphic Design
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