Why It’s Not Really About The Chips: Inclusive Design for Women

As designers, observing aspects of physical/digital software and how users interact with that object are important for creating a holistic product.

Many companies are often considering how their design fits multiple user groups which creates a lot of potential routes for new revenue. With the inclusion of women in stereotypically-male spaces, it is becoming more and more popular than ever to design female-oriented products. This inclusive design may seem complex, but it is similar to what many UX Designers already practice: understanding a user’s wants and needs, and designing out a product based on their habits. With the globalization of tech becoming ever-present, it’s important for companies to understand how to design for diverse user groups. This could result in changing the original product, or depending on the object, could be a re-release of the original.

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Example: Earlier versions of VR Machines were uncomfortable for female wearers that wore ponytails or had curly hair, which extended into males that also had curly or longer hair – the device’s design was later changed to be more inclusive (similar AR machines have come out recently with the same problems).

There is a way that designing for users can benefit a female user group, and there are ways where a potential inclusive design may fail a female user group.

This inclusive design walks a fine line between group habits and stereotypes, and many designers need to recognize that there is a large difference. For example, when designing inclusively for women it is important not to just consider stereotypes of what women like, but also how their habits are impacted by the environment around them and how they are brought up in that environment. It’s also important to consider your bias towards a particular outcome when reading data gathered from a group.

 

 

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Photo: Sharon Pruitt/EyeEm/Getty Images
Example: Doritos recently released a statement saying women would like a “low-crunch” chip that “less of the flavor sticking to fingers” according to how studies on gender differences have impacted the development world. Apparently, they hadn’t learned of the PR fiasco “Bic for Her” had created for the pen company. 

A great product example of this is the female razor.

Imagine that you are in charge of a budding razor company whose primary market is heterosexual adult males age 20-30, and to compete with the current industry you need to expand your market to be more inclusive towards females. It is considered an American norm for both men and women to shave excess body hair, however the areas that women shave are much different from that of men varying on both sensitivity and shape. Women also have a high regard in keeping their skin healthy and soft in their daily hygiene routine. There are many different ways that companies currently address female group needs and habits, and of course all in different ways. These design variations include making the product more cylindrical in shape for traversing convex and concave areas, making the product more approachable by making it pink with florals, or by making the product more moisturizing.

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Example A, the company chose to go with a pink version in order to be more inclusive towards women. In Example B, the company chose to cater to how women use the product.

However, there is an important thing to consider with approachability in design, and here is where we get into stereotyping females and failing in designing for them. As obvious as this fact may seem: a female can use a black object just as well or poorly as a pink object of the same design. Changing your product to be more inclusive to women has to permeate further than the minimal facial features of the product. Similar to the use of a razor, women may use a product differently than men and it is the responsibility of the designer of the product to take these considerations in mind. However, and this is important: this product can include important features that are more approachable for women, but this is not a detriment to men or non-binary individuals. People are diverse beings, and often occupy the same spaces and have similar needs. Swimmers, for example, tend to shave their entire bodies in order to reduce drag in competitions. A razor that traverses convex and concave areas that doesn’t create razor bumps is important to that entire user group, regardless of gender.

So in the grand scheme of things, why does this matter?

Why can’t there be pink products? My underlying message is that there can be, because pink is a fun color,  but that as designers we shouldn’t be relying on the stereotype that women like pink (or are taught to be quiet in public) in order to sell a product. People use objects to achieve various means in different ways, but looking at our user groups and stereotyping them as separate “gay” “white” “female” “trans-sexual” groups may lead us down the wrong path. We should look at how groups use the products and group by different ways people may use the same technology, instead of by whom is using it.

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“That’s right — pink guns. If you’re a woman who’s put off by the macho violence of guns, maybe you’d change your mind if they were pink.” CrackedThe 5 Most Pointlessly Women-Specific Products

 

 

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