Saturday, August 27, 2005

Which Sex is Your Web Site?

Kath Straub, Ph.D., CUA, Chief Scientist at Human Factors International, looks at recent research on the effect of designer gender on Web site design.

To identify the sex characteristics of Web sites, Moss, Gunn and Heller 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:
- contain links to fewer sites
- use more informal language
- use more abbreviations
- show a greater tendency toward self-denigration
- tend to use more non-expert language

With respect to visual presentation, female sites:
- tend to use rounded rather than straight shapes
- tend to avoid horizontal layouts
- use more informal typography
- contain more colors (particularly white, yellow, pink and mauve)
- tend to contain more pictures of women

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.

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