How gadget makers try to understand the ladybrain

Katie Tech

Petrol%20Crochet%20Hat%201%20thumb.JPGKatie Lee writes…

Last week I talked about the impossible task of being a mouthpiece for every single female gadget consumer. But in spite of my constant assurances that I’m as much in the dark about the inner workings of the female brain as they are, marketeers looking to gather the female buying public to their breasts, love nothing better than to ring me up and ask me to let them in on the divine secrets of the sisterhood.

Consumers are constantly being split into groups that marketers and gadget designers can then try to target – early adopters, social users, budget buyers, road warriors, and so on – all of them mildly distasteful to any right-thinking human. But, there’s some sort of unspoken rule that those groups are almost entirely peopled by men, because when it comes to women, we’re split into the following category: women.

And, invariably, the gadgets designed for that particular monosex market segment, are doused in a liberal dose of pink paint and supplied with an exclusive designer tie-in (perfume, silk scarf, phone charm, make-up, tampons… OK, maybe not tampons, but you get the drift). Usually, they’re also stripped of all high-end features (wouldn’t want to confuse the purty lady, now would we) and kitted out with all manner of patronising features (menstrual calendar, biorhythms calculator, calorie counter) that simply reek of “help! What do ladies do?!!! Erm, erm, I know! They bleed! And talk about their weight! And read those stupid star sign articles”

The simple fact is, when it comes to technology, women want the same things as men: they want choice. There’s a reason the iPod mini did so well with ladies, and it wasn’t (*just*) because it came in pink. The reason it did well with women is the same reason it did well with men: because it had an obvious practical use, it looked good, and it offered consumers a choice (or at least the appearance of choice) thanks to a range of colours.

Some women are hugely offended by pink gadgets, some of them love them (me), some women want really simple gadgets, some want all the bells and whistles. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to work it out (although clearly that’s what I am). And, despite what many of the male tech obsessives who run the web would have you believe, men are similarly divided in their opinions. My dad couldn’t give a toss about technology (while my mum loves it) and only a couple of my male friends can have any knowledge or interest in the latest gadget launches, while one of them couldn’t even tell me what make his company laptop was the other day (I’m still perplexed by this).

So, you want to make a gadget that appeals to women? Make it useful, make it simple and make it look good – ie, make what any sane person would want in a gadget.

By Katie | March 19th, 2007

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