“Do men and women use tech differently ?”

This article was originally published on the MyOxygen blog, you can read the original here

A question that I have been considering recently is whether men and women use technology differently. It’s something that we were asked by a potential client and I had to admit I didn’t have the answer.

You might firstly ask why this is important? In fact, it’s very important.

As software developers we naturally aim to appeal to 100% of our target audience. That means that we first have to understand who the user is before we can design an app that would satisfy their requirements. If it was truly the case that men and women use technology differently that would suggest that without proper consideration our apps would reach only 50% of its intended audience.

We discussed the matter as a team, noting down a number of important points. Firstly, is there a difference between the way that men and women use technology. If there is, what are the things that we need to take into consideration when we start to design a user interface for our mobile software. What are the implications for this?

When answering these questions, we looked back at some of our most successful apps. On closer inspection we found no evidence, either from customers or users, that our apps failed to reach their target audience on grounds of gender differences.

Take our SAM app for instance. By working closely with a multidisciplinary team we were able to create multiple user profiles representing a whole cross-section of users, building an app that appealed to everyone.

Our work with the NHS for instance has always considered other users, not just male and female but across ethnic backgrounds and even languages.

Reflecting on our experiences we are confident that we’re delivering apps that are designed and aimed at users of all gender, tastes and persuasion. But, going back to the original question, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn. Now that we have discussed and delved into the topic as a team, it was time to look at my very own case study.

My research didn’t take me very far. In fact, I didn’t have to go beyond the front door of my own home. My wife is confident with technology and regularly uses an iPad, iPhone, Windows PC and Mac professionally in her role as an accountant, and in her personal life to stay in contact with friends, shop online, watch films and so on.

We discussed the topic together and noted some differences between us that may be relevant:

  1. She never rushes to do an update either on the phones operating system or her Apps
  2. Privacy — and in particular the way she controls it — is incredibly important
  3. Design is secondary to functionality. If it looks good but doesn’t’ work, it won’t stay around for long
  4. Unused apps are deleted regularly

Now these aren’t particularly huge differences and we can’t draw too much from them, but it has challenged us to think differently about what we do.

At the heart of the question is the truth that we can’t assume that all users are like ourselves. When we create apps they have to appeal to a wide audience. They should be accessible and useful, and built at all times around solid functionality.

If I was asked the question again I would say that no, women don’t use technology differently to men. We all use technology in our own particular, often quirky, ways and as producers of software we need to recognize and embrace that difference.