Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Wednesday, 3 August 2005 14:51 UK

Website design is 'biased to men'

Man at the keyboard
Most websites are produced by men but women prefer female design

Websites could be missing their target audiences because their design is biased towards what appeals to men, researchers have found.

A University of Glamorgan team found out what features appealed to the sexes by looking at the make-up of personal website sites by 30 men and 30 women.

It showed men liked straighter lines, fewer colours and more formal language.

When the factors were compared with other websites, 94% were found to display a "masculine orientation".

The 23 factors considered in judging the differences between women's and men's websites were grouped into three main areas - language, visuals and navigation.

There is no doubt about the strength of men's and women's preference for sites produced by people of their own sex
Researcher Dr Rod Gunn

Where men preferred straight lines, women had chosen more rounded shapes, the research found.

Women also liked to use more colours in text and in backgrounds than men, but men were found to use more formal or expert language and fewer abbreviations than women.

Men were also found to promote themselves and their abilities more heavily in their websites than women.

The research team then showed 32 websites belonging to higher education organisations to both sexes, who had to rate their appeal on a scale.

In almost every case, the team discovered, men preferred sites designed by men and women like those created by women.

Target audiences

Even though higher education organisations were considered to be trying to attract men and women equally, the survey showed 94% were biased towards men and only 2% towards women.

Co-researcher Dr Rod Gunn said: "The statistics are complicated, but there is no doubt about the strength of men's and women's preference for sites produced by people of their own sex."

His research colleague, Gloria Moss, added: "What we have found is that organisations are not considering how they can tailor their websites to appeal to their entire target audience.

"If this is true for education institutions, then it is also very likely to be true for businesses who are not attaining their potential because their website isn't meeting the visual needs of their audience.

"If website flow is to be maximised, greater attention needs to be given to the production aesthetic used and the consequent appeal websites will have to their target markets.

"Given the strong tendency for each sex to prefer the output of its own sex, it does not make sense to attempt to appeal to women using an aesthetic which is largely male."

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