Should you be Marketing to Genders or not?

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So you want to design websites for guys and gals? Want to perhaps introduce some things into your design that will specify your website to a female or male audience? Well stop. That’s going to be the big message of this article, stop trying to design for only one gender.

female or male audience

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The society today is simply too diverse to allow any product or service to cater to a specific gender and not understanding this diversity has been the downfall of a lot of ill-advised and terribly executed advertising campaigns and design strategies which eventually alienate and confuse instead of attracting or familiarizing viewers.

By presenting a review of a few web designs online the advice today is on how to de-emphasize the gendering of your web design, and frame the content of your website in ways that give content appeal without telling your viewers that you’re hopelessly out of touch and possibly sexist.

Poor Dell Failed with Della

Poor Dell Failed with Della

One needs to look no further than Dell to know that marketing and advertising can go horribly wrong in this regard. In 2009 they released a version of their website called “Della” in order to appeal to the fairer sex portion of their audience.

On it was advertised their less “mannish” line of colorful laptops and helpful tech tips reminded women that they could use their new devices to look up recipes, calculate calories, and search for guided meditations. This was, despite all the best intentions in the world, a bad idea for one very important reason. It limited their viewers in every possible way.

A web design can create a brand which caters to masses, irrespective of their gender. Highly “feminizing” the layout of the website crippled possibilities for varied consumption because it portrayed a very specific idea of womanhood. Suggesting that laptops are for recipes as a point of technological know-how is devastatingly ignorant in terms of how much it underestimates the target audience, not to mention insulting to any competent computer user.

What designers have to do is let go of constructive gender ideologies when designing web sites, especially when constructing web sites they believe will appeal to one more than the other. There are websites that fulfill this amazingly, and allow their products to fill in interest where others try to force the frame to make the painting appealing.

V76 Deconstructs the Male Gender

V76 Deconstructs the Male Gender

V76 is an example of a site that sells products primarily for men but doesn’t have to scream it to the world. The site has a lot of products that are marketed towards men, but you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell outside of the main page, which features an introductory slideshow that mentions men’s style quotes and suchlike. The site is just a simple exploration of its topics, with easy to navigate drop-down menus and galleries of products that explain without overwhelming.

The product names describe their purpose, and if that’s what you need you can head straight to checkout. But if they want to know more, the discerning customer can simply click the product to see how it’s applied, what it’s used for, and even the ingredients incorporated into it. It is overall a common sense approach to web design that doesn’t scream MANLY MEN to everyone who doesn’t need or want to hear it. It’s smooth, stylish, and easy to use.

Sephora: More than just a Pretty Face

On the other side of the spectrum we have Sephora, a company with such an emphasis on women’s products that “men” become a subsection alongside skincare and makeup.

Sephora More than just a Pretty Face

But look at the way the website is designed. It’s wonderfully neutral, and gorgeously simple. It doesn’t oppress with any sort of visual framing, and it doesn’t try to explode in your face with the presentation of its products. It just presents simple sections of the site, and pictures of people just using the products. The women in Sephora’s photos aren’t doing things that establish them as women. The models don’t have gendered activities that mean to solidify their identities as men or women. In fact a lot of the models they use in their advertising are quite androgynous. No, instead they use the models as a palette for their products, and leave the choice of how or by whom the products are used up to the buyer. It’s a simple concept, but with sites like Della popping up it’s good to get a refresher from a company that executes as well as Sephora.

Bottom Line:

Advertising is complicated, and it is difficult. But in an increasingly complex and socially aware world, plastering web pages with a specific idea of femininity or masculinity is not a viable option. Your viewers will have individual and vastly different definitions of gender and what it means to be a specific gender or none at all. Don’t limit your possibilities by selling to only one. Sell your product, and create a website that lets it largely speak for itself. Provide your viewers with a way to easily access all the information they need to choose it, but don’t tell them who you want to be buying it by making the same mistakes that companies like Dell did.

So are you marketing to genders?

I am a digital marketing consultant with a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. I believe the focus of every business should be on creating a consistent brand identity online and offline.

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