How gender parity is improving UX
In a digital age, user experience is everything. Websites, apps, and products must be designed with the user in mind if they want to succeed. But what happens when your users don’t stem from just one gender group?
For years, the tech industry has been dominated by men, resulting in products that aren’t always inclusive or user-friendly for women. However, times are changing. The topic of gender parity has an established seat at the debate table in the world of design, with more companies recognising the importance of creating products that work for everyone.
In this article, we’ll explore how gender parity is improving user experience and why it’s so important for designers to consider the needs of all users, regardless of gender. So, whether you’re a designer yourself or simply interested in the world of user experience, read on to discover why it’s time to start designing inclusively.
Understanding gender-based differences in UX and the importance of inclusive design
Gender research studies are often in conflict about how much our gender impacts the user experience, with the caveat that many of these studies only consider gender as a binary, i.e. male or female.
For instance, the Gender based alteration in colour perception report, concludes that females are likely to have more significant sensory reactions to colour, and overall females can see more shades than males.
Contrary to this, another study published by the International Journal of Interactive Multimedia and Artificial Intelliegence, shows that there are no substantial differences in perception of the UX between males and females. Personal attributes and preferences seem to have a substantially greater influence than sex.
Either way, all studies point to the fact that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to UX, simply doesn’t cater to everyone, long-term. Better human-centred design is needed and so, naturally, our curiosity has peaked here at ExperienceLab.
We know that differences and spectrums exist within each gender type, and it is only when Designers consider these nuances at design-phase, that equitable outcomes for all users can be achieved.
Take Jamila Rizvi’s public toilet debate to illustrate this point…
Public male and female bathrooms are designed equitably with regards to spatial footprint, suggesting that users will have similar wait-times for use. Wrong.
Delve deeper and we find that male bathrooms can fit twice the number of amenities in. Add to this that woman tend to live longer than men, take on childcare responsibilities and have additional sanitary requirements, and wee see that a larger proportion of female users require more time than their male counterparts, impacting on queue wait-times.
The picture unfolds that design equality does not translate to equitable outcomes for both groups.
Likewise, a designer who takes this argument and applies it to a traditional, corporate environment (where considerations like age frailty and caring for infants is not applicable) would be over-engineering the design-process and risk creating a space that doesn’t serve the majority of users – more likely to be of working age and male.
Challenges in implementing gender parity in UX
The odds appear to be stacked against those tasked to pave a better, more gender-equitable design road. Considerations like gender bias and a lack of diversity and research create bumps at every turn:
Leads designers to create products that work better for one gender over the other, even if they don’t realise it (queue public bathroom debate).
Why gender parity in design is good for business
Everyone, regardless of age, ability, gender, background and circumstance should be able to make use of well-designed products and service delivery. A monetary draw of adopting inclusive design is that companies can reach a wider audience, increase revenue, and improve customer retention rates. Inclusive design is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense.
The bottom-line is that a company’s bottom-line is affected by the topic of gender, whether through avoidance or embracing positive design changes.
Proof point – fitbit:
Fitbit recognised that their app was not working for its female users, and women formed a sizeable segment of their consumer market. The app was redesigned, with added features such as menstrual cycle tracking and the ability to track breastfeeding and pumping. The redesign was a success, with advocacy groups and publications praising the new features and the company seeing an increase in revenue.
What are the key benefits for businesses?
- Organisations that embrace gender-inclusive design will be able to reach a wider audience, increase customer satisfaction rates and revenue.
- Companies that value diversity and create a culture of inclusivity are more likely to attract and retain top talent.
- Beyond obvious reputation management, gender parity can help organisations to avoid negative publicity and legal action from advocacy groups.
- As more females and non-binary employees are encouraged to enter the tech industry, we can naturally expect to see more products that are better designed for all.
The future of gender-inclusive design is bright. With wider recognition, we can expect to see more topical research which considers gender as a spectrum and not a binary. The result will be that more human-centred products, backed by data, will reach a wider market.
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