January 22nd, 2009

Thanks to my own Tom’s Guide for their feature on the Consumer Electronics show a few weeks back. In a panel called “Thinking about Sex and Electronics,” they report, “a design firm called Smart Design aimed to help manufacturers understand why the vast majority of women feel alienated by many tech products on the market.” According to the panel members, who included two female designers:

The manufacturers think we’re all super girly, feminine, like-minded people who like happy things. That’s a gross oversimplification and doesn’t take advantage of the real market opportunity. These surface treatments just skim the surface. Aesthetics are not the only thing that women want. Women want simple and intuitive products. Smart design is based on universal design.

Here are the main points the panel made about what actually women want in their tech, what makes them feel comfortable and what piques their interest:

1. Painting tech pink misses the boat. Just because a cell phone looks like it could belong to Barbie doesn’t mean women will want it.

2. Unlike men, who are often drawn to tech for its impressive stats or new sleek design, women want a “warmer value system.” They want to be able to envision the item in question as part of their lives with their family and friends.

3. Tech with personality, with an element of the human, wins out over the cold power. For example, women connect with roombas and Macs, since they seem to have personality, giving them an emotional link.

I would add, in my own experience, that women are interested in:

4) A general attention to aesthetics. I for one am much more likely to select a stylized item than a simple one.

5) Practicality. Do I need this item? Will I use it regularly? If it’s just powerful and impressive for being new, no thanks.

The article makes suggestions of other tech products, not mentioned in the panel, that might fit this mold and appeal to women. Some of them seem a bit shallow — pretty computer cases, frilly phone wallets, and a nail designer by Mattel — but the overall message is crucial: designing tech for women can’t be done with a simple color change. It means putting seriously thought into aesthetics and usability.

Tags: design, Women rock!

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