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Design and Gender

Over at Misbehaving, Liz posts a link to a CNN report on a study done on web aesthetics and usability. The CNN headline ("Web site's appearance matters"), in addition to being grammatically incorrect (singular/plural) and questionable (web site = two words still?), doesn't quite get at what's interesting about it:

Women seemed to like pages with more color in the background and typeface. Women also favored informal rather than posed pictures.

Men responded better to dark colors and straight, horizontal lines across a page. They also were more pleased by a three-dimensional look and images of "self-propelling" rather than stationary objects.

With those standards in mind, the researchers checked out the Web sites for 32 British universities and determined that 94 percent had a "masculine orientation." Two percent showed a female-favored arrangement.

Not in itself a particularly shocking result, I suppose, but reading this shortly after DP's search for visual rhetoric readings for an FYC class made me think that a study like this would make for a potentially interesting research project for a group of FYC students. There's not a whole lot of question in my mind that gender plays a role in aesthetics, but it would be possible to design a project that tried to achieve similar conclusions about what some of those differences are and/or one that looked at a variety of institutional sites to see what sort of aesthetic they practice and whether it's gendered. And that might make for a nice introduction to visual rhetoric for the students.

Update: Upon further reflection, I'm willing to cede the singular/plural thing. I still think that the story is about how the appearance of sites matters, but I can see how the headline itself makes sense (a website's appearance matters). I still think website is one word, though.