Stop Designing For Men

Posted Saturday, July 20th, 2013 at 12:47 pm

If you’re designing or creating content on the Internet today, you need to remember one simple fact: Your audience has two genders, not just one. It isn’t just men, it’s women, too — and the women outnumber the men.

Take a look at this report from last year, on “10 Key Trends From the Banking Trenches“. On slide number 27, it displays the results of a Nielsen study on US digital consumers.

The big take-away is right in the green dot in the middle: Women equal or outnumber men in every category except one. They make up 54% of social networking visitors (so men are only 46%), and they’re also beating men in video consumption by 53% over 47%. They are tied, dead even, for smartphone ownership. The only realm in which men are a bigger slice of the pie is in tablet ownership, where they reverse the 53/47 split from video viewing.

If you think tablet owners are as big a demographic as “people who view video online”, you have a serious problem. (Namely, you’re completely unaware of current Internet trends.) How much traffic does YouTube get every day? Then add Vevo and Vimeo to that…

Aside: It’s interesting to note that tablet owners are also the demographic that includes the lowest percentage of whites, at only 60%. I’m not sure why that is or what it means, but I welcome feedback and speculation.

Yup, Women Play Games

Even gaming isn’t a bastion of maleness. Study after study, reaching back at least seven years, shows women making up the majority of casual gamers — and casual gaming is the biggest segment of gaming. Women age 25 and up not only make up the largest segment of gamers; they also spend the most total time online, outdoing the vaunted 12-24-year-old male segment by a huge margin. In 2006, when I got a job at a casual games maker, it was well known around the office that roughly ⅔ of our customers were women aged 30-50; four years later, surveys were confirming that the average social gamer was (still) a 43-year-old woman.

More recently, a Trinity University study showed the continuing trend of young male gamers leaving gaming as they age, while more women start gaming as they age — and confirmed that the older (generally female) players spend more time gaming.

Even when we look at non-casual gaming, like MMORPGs, women are still well represented. As of November 25, 2012, Squidoo’s World of Warcraft statistics and Survey Poll showed 65.4% male and 34.6% female players. Compare that to the Daedalus Project’s 2005 stat of 84% male and 16% female, and — even accounting for the variability of Internet surveys — there’s a clear trend toward greater female inclusion.

Those Days Are Past — Long Past

If you ever wanted to make a joke about there being no women on the Internet, you’ll need a time machine. That joke was worn-out, tired, and passé ten or fifteen years ago. At this point, TV Tropes (whose population skews young and male, but fairly open-minded) lists “no girls on the Internet” as a Discredited Trope, meaning it’s as hackneyed and false as things like:

(All of those are listed on the Discredited Tropes page under “General”.) Even Know Your Meme calls the concept “outdated”, and goes out of its way to debunk it.

In other words, a couple of the most humorous and casual sites on the Web outside of The Onion have recognized that “the Internet is for men” is outdated bullshit. If your company’s business plan hasn’t caught up with that level of awareness? You are in serious trouble. Catch the news flash: Our species has women as well as men. Try talking to the whole human race, not just half of it. We’re all on the Internet; it doesn’t take a penis to operate a computer. (And if you think otherwise, wow, are you doin’ it wrong.)

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