We’ve been doing a lot of work recently in product design for women. There are many commonly cited issues with designing for women, from forgetting that we are “women”, not “girls”, to thinking that making a product pink is the only way we will buy something. But there are some basic female insights that could go a long way in thinking how to design for women.
1. I carry a bag.
Many times, when designing a portable device, the inclination is to make it small so it will fit in a pocket. Small is not helpful to me as a woman. I do not carry things in my pocket if I can help it. I carry a bag. Something tiny and slick is the worst thing possible to throw into a purse. In my bag, I have tons of smaller bags that feel different from one another. I use those bags to contain smaller, slick objects so that I can easily locate and use those items. Make it easy for me to find it in my black hole of a bag. Make it feel different. Or better yet, let me operate it by tactile interface.
2. I wear jewelry.
However, something small could be infinitely useful if it were attached to me. There are plenty of wearable opportunities in my life. I wear jewelry. Men do not often wear jewelry, but I do. And when I wear jewelry, I don’t want it to look like a piece of machinery or a giant scuba watch. I want things that are simple and elegant. Functional is great, as long as it has some style to it. By the way, pink is not a style.
3. The older I get, the less I can see.
I have a friend, aged 58, who was recently complaining to me about her potions in the shower. “I’m supposed to wear my reading glasses in the shower? I can’t tell if I have shampoo or conditioner.” The type was way too small. So instead, she buys different color bottles for the shampoo and conditioner so that she can easily tell them apart. When designing for real women, realize they’re not all 18. Older women want to use technology, too. Use other types of cues and output besides just tiny text on a tiny screen. Look to voice, gesture, and tactile methods to communicate.
4. I use a lot of new technology.
In fact, it was recently revealed that older women are actually the dominant users of new digital devices. So go ahead, design for your mom. She’s probably more important to the adoption of new devices than those college age boys most think are going to be the first to use it.
5. I not only manage my life, but all of my family’s life as well.
Women are the pivot point between home and work. We are most often the people that make sure that our kids get to all their after school activities while simultaneously ensuring that our big presentation is ready to go the next day at 8 a.m. after we drop our dad off at the doctor. Women’s lives are about managing multiple complicated responsibilities. Create tools that help us manage that chaos. And remember, it’s very likely that our children and parents are probably going to use our device.
6. I think spatially.
Many studies into how people process digital space have discovered that women perform best when given the opportunity to understand spatial relations between objects. Providing me with real world spatial cues (signposts, orientation, landmarks, lighting cues) will help me to process digital information. Additionally, allow me the opportunity to create spatially relevant areas on the device as buckets of information. In other words, let me assign meaning to areas of the device and organize my information around those signposts.