Getting Beyond "Shrink and Pink"

Experientia's Putting People First today points to an article in the Boston Globe about the growing interest among technology developers in creating products that appeal to women. The article points to big players such as Nokia and Microsoft as those making a research investment in creating products and services that address not only the stylistic interests of women but also their social preferences and cognitive patterns.

The big push by these companies and others is to get beyond what one female salesperson I spoke with in an electronics store derisively called the "shrink it and pink it" mentality of developing technology for women (while restocking a section of small, pink MP3 players). One interesting breakthrough is that Nokia, Microsoft et al are beginning understand that technology designed by (predominantly) male engineers and developers contain architectures and processes that reflect the mindset of the designer (see Michele Bowman's piece about mobile phone selection here to witness the frustration). As such they don't necessarily reflect the values, behaviors or tastes of what is increasingly the majority of the tech purchasing public in the US.

Nokia's Tera Ojanperä puts a finger on the issue exactly, saying it isn't about "shrink and pink," but about humanizing the products and services that are offered, making them more social. In general it can probably be said that the sharper focus on the social aspects of technology, greater application of people-centered design strategies, and the improvements that are being made in some areas in usability are all helping to draw women to the cash register and makes them happier, more productive, more satisfied customers, which in turn encourages more of the same approach.

The long-term implication for consumer technologies is broader application of visual, cooperative/social, relational values and characteristics in new products and services. It may also mean a longer-term shift in the information processing patterns of male users as younger consumer adapt to these rebalanced cognitive maps and processes; hierarchies, collections, "buckets," may fade as information navigation metaphors over time.

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