Gloria Moss, Glamorgan University Business School in Wales

08/19/05

Web design: absence of female aesthetic?

A British study has proved that men and women respond in different ways to the design of websites. According to the study, the majority of sites are “biased to men.”

As in almost all industries, design plays an important role also - and especially on the Internet - when it comes to standing out from the crowd and addressing target groups. With the Internet doubling its size every two to three months, it is now more important than ever for companies to have websites that catch the attention of the entire target market.

 

However, the study discovered that most businesses do not optimally use their web presence to reach their particular target audiences, because their web designs do not meet the different visual needs of men and women. This is the result of a study from the Glamorgan University Business School in Wales.

The study found that websites display highly significant differences in web design, depending on whether they were designed by men or by women. Accordingly, men do favour straight lines, use few colours in the typeface and background, and the typography is rather formal as well. The study also revealed that men and women show a preference for websites produced by people of their own sex.

The study examined 32 websites of British universities and other higher education organisations. The results: despite the target audience being almost equally balanced between male and female visitors, 94 per cent of the websites were clearly designed following masculine aesthetic values. Only 2 per cent were classified as displaying a clear “female orientation.” Websites from France and Poland, which were also examined in the course of the study, showed similar results. These findings show that gender differences, which emerge between the designs of websites, are in fact international.

A separate study examined websites from the beauty industry, which clearly address female target groups. However, most of the web designs to be found in this industry, too, were modelled on the male aesthetic. Surprisingly, 78 per cent of the actually female orientated websites in this industry were designed and drawn up by men.

Research fellow Gloria Moss said that businesses better tailor their websites to the results of the study: "The absence of a female web aesthetic in the beauty websites would make these sites less optimally effective than they could be. This is the first study to really tackle this issue in any depth and its findings could have a big influence on how businesses and organisations utilise their web space. It is no longer satisfactory to assume that an 'effective website' is perceived in the same way by all visitors."