Sugar and spice

Paul Boag

According to some recent research by the University of Glamorgan, if you are designing a site primarily aimed at women, it is worth ensuring a female designer is working on it.

To summarise, the report claims that women are drawn to design by other women and there are major differences between the design style of men and women.

This is certainly something that has been borne out by my personal experience of working with female designers. I have been fortunate enough to work with two extremely talented women designers in the past and found that there approach to design was markedly different from the approach taken by their male colleagues. In particular their use of colour was much more refined and they tended towards more rounded (less aggressive) forms. These are just two of 23 distinct factors the research went on to identify.

Of course, there is one fundamental flaw in the approach of using female designers for women orientated sites. The problem lays in the fact that there are so few female web designers around. I recently attended the @Media 2005 conference for web design and of the 300 delegates; there were only approximately seven female designers. This surprises me as a large amount of web design work is highly creative and the arts generally have a strong female representation. No doubt, this is to do with the fact that web design is often perceived as a technology related area not an arts related subject. Technology as a whole is male dominated and so perhaps this is putting off women when considering a career choice.

It is my hope that we will see more women moving into the field of web design in the near future however in the meantime it is worth bearing in mind the research carried out by the University of Glamorgan. If you are forced to use a male designer for a female orientated site make sure the design is tested against a female audience before rolling it out across the site.