Don’t Be Afraid To Go Pink: Designing Great Tech Products For Women

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Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Sarah Paiji, co-founder and CEO of Snapette, a mobile fashion shopping startup that drives users to nearby stores. She is an alumni of 500 Startups accelerator and dropped out of Harvard Business School to work on Snapette full-time with her co-founder Jinhee Ahn Kim. Snapette Director of Marketing Sanby Lee also contributed to the post.

When it comes to fashion, women have embraced products that were originally designed for men. Flip through any J.Crew catalog and you’ll encounter the Boyfriend Jean, Boyfriend Blazer, unisex ankle boots, and of course the classic men’s shirt paired with skinny jeans.

When it comes to tech? Not so much. In the predominantly male tech world, products are usually, by default, designed by men — for men. However, women have different design preferences and needs, with research showing that men and women do indeed use the Web and social media in different ways.

Designers and developers may be missing out on a huge opportunity by overlooking the gender of users when creating products. Women control 80 percent of consumer spending and drive the majority of user activity on many of the largest social networks. The recent success of startups driven by female users such as Gilt Groupe, Learnvest, InDinero, OneKingsLane, and countless social gaming apps show that there is value in focusing specifically on the female consumer.

So if a large portion of your customer base is women (or you’d like it to be) how do you design for them? As women who are developing products for other women, here’s what we’ve learned from our experience:

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Pink.

We don’t mean that your product literally has to be pink. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to make a product that is only for women, and to signal this through your aesthetic and branding. For our mobile shopping app, we chose a name and color scheme that was decidedly feminine. We had men complain that they didn’t feel comfortable using the app, or posting in a community dominated by women.

But that’s the point — we didn’t want men as our initial audience. Given that our product is a social shopping app that relies on crowdsourcing and strong community, our focus on “just women” has helped us create a targeted and streamlined user experience. Women see photos posted by users similar to them, thus increasing the likelihood they find products they enjoy and that are relevant.

2. Resist Feature Overload.

Keeping it simple is a cornerstone of good design for any gender, but it’s even more crucial when it comes to products targeting women. Women are less likely to spend time hunting around or exploring new features because they may be juggling other tasks that require their time and attention. For example, we have found that many of our users are moms who would browse the app while running errands, waiting in line at the grocery store, or watching their kids play softball.

Working women still do twice the amount of chores and three times the amount of childcare in their households than working men. For these women, adding new features may go unnoticed, and may actually turn them off by taking up more of their time.

3. Find The Key Influencers.

For marketing to women, social sharing is even more important than for men. For example, loyalty platform Endorse acquired 15,000 beta users, almost 90 percent of which were women, by recruiting just five women initially to spread the word among their friends.

Jewelry startup Stella Dot has built its business by having their existing customer base hold private parties during which women encourage their friends to buy products, reminiscent of Avon women and similar to Tupperware parties of the past. Don’t underestimate the power of female social networks, especially offline ones — with 92 percent of women sharing information about shopping deals to their friends.

4. Enable Discovery.

Women are valuable consumers because they are more open to trying new things, whereas men tend to find one thing they like and stick with it. Research from Wharton Business School backs this up with data: Women view the shopping experience itself as a form of entertainment and an enjoyable way to find new products, whereas men are focused on getting what they need, then getting out.

Startups like Birchbox and Rent the Runway have become popular among women by allowing them to experience a large variety of merchandise at minimal cost, replicating the offline experience of wandering through a department store and trying on clothes or getting perfume samples.

5. Have Women On Your Team.

We’re not saying that men can’t design for women, especially with help from interviewing women, doing surveys, and learning their needs. However, if your company is a startup, your time and resources are always limited, and you don’t always have the ability to do extensive user research.

It helps to start with yourself as the target user, and the easiest way to think like a woman is to be one. In designing Snapette, it’s been incredibly useful and efficient to be able to draw on our own personal experiences — anything from deciding which shoe to feature in a marketing campaign to deciding whether a new feature is useful.

What do you think? Have you seen great examples of tech designed for women? Would you be turned off by anything pink no matter how well it was designed? Tell us your thoughts.

Image credit: Ruth Graham/TheGrindStone


  • SNAPETTE
  • SARAH PAIJI
  • GILT GROUPE
  • LEARNVEST
  • INDINERO
  • ONE KINGS LANE
  • BIRCHBOX
  • RENT THE RUNWAY

Snapette is the new social destination for fashion lovers on the go. Browse and share photos of amazing shoes and bags, from around the corner or around the world, conveniently on your phone!

Now available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Please visit us at www.snapetteee.com.

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Sarah is Co-Founder of Snapette, a web and mobile app that makes it easy to browse and share photos of the best in-store shopping finds with other fashion lovers around the world.

Previously, she was a private equity investor at Berkshire Partners where she focused on consumer businesses and online services. Sarah started her career as a management consultant at McKinsey Company in New York.

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Headquartered in New York, Gilt Groupe is a privately held company dedicated to providing its members with access to coveted fashion and luxury lifestyle brands at sample sale prices. Gilt Groupe includes sales for men, women, and home as well as Gilt City (geo-specific), Gilt Taste (food), and Jetsetter (travel).

Gilt Groupe hand selects both established and up and coming brands relevant to its membership base. Each Gilt Groupe Shopping Event is designer-specific and held over a one day…

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LearnVest is a fun, interactive, personal finance tool that fills the gap between complicated books and expensive financial advisors. LearnVest walks users through personal financial issues step-by-step via dynamic LearnVest Checklists.

LearnVest’s Checklists (aka, cheat sheets) currently cover over 50 topics and help users tackle financial life events such as: getting out of debt, budgeting for a wedding, buying your first stock, or applying for a student loan—one step at a time, with expert advice.

Users can save their progress…

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inDinero creates software to help small businesses better track and manage their finances. Indinero aims to provide its users with instant insights into the finances of their companies, leading them to save on unnecessary expenses and to earn more money for their companies.

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One Kings Lane is the leading flash sales site for the home market, offering members access to spectacular designer home decor, furnishings, accessories, and gifts – at prices up to 70% off retail. One Kings Lane works directly with leading home brands to bring the very best products at exceptional prices to its members – every day of the week. One Kings Lane also partners with top designers, decorators and industry insiders to deliver content that inspires, enlightens and…

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BirchBox is a monthly subscription service that delivers beauty product samples to users on a monthly basis. The site offers relevant editorial content and a e-commerce site.

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Rent the Runway is a site which allows you to rent a dress for the night.

They buy pieces directly from top designers and then offer rentals at just 10% of retail prices.

Users add it to their basket, tell them when you’d like it delivered, and it’ll appear on your doorstep.

After the date, or wedding, or cocktail party, is over, just repack it in handy, pre-paid packaging and just drop it in a mailbox. They will take…

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