Myself and Grace – one of Zebra’s Creative consultants – attended yet another fantastic Ladies that UX meetup last night, this time in the impressive Twitter offices located in the buzzing tourist hub that is Piccadilly Circus! On arrival we were treated to some tasty meze inspired delights and a glass of vino to start the evening…
The first talk ‘Women are from Earth – Gender and Software Design’ was given by the talented Dr Simone Stumpf, a Senior Lecturer at City University London where she is teaching Human-Computer Interaction and Inclusive Design with previous industry experience as a UX Architect.
Simone gave insight into how recent research has uncovered some gender differences in problem-solving that appear to have direct implications on software use. As designers often do not consider gender in their designs, she summarised the research focused on gender categories, including a great example of how to describe gender, using the Genderbread Person!
Simone described how it is unknown whether key gender differences are down to nature or nurture. The question on whether there are gender differences can be answered by 3 main responses:
- “Essentialist” response
- “Cultural” response
- “Gender HCI” response
Simone discussed some interesting cognitive gender differences, explaining how there are hardly any differences between male and female at infancy, but they become much more apparent in adulthood with levels of self-confidence, perception and memory ability to name a few.
With development teams being male dominated, there is the risk of bias or stereotype designs so the key question that must be asked is:
“Is your software gender neutral or gender inclusive?”
Simone gave insight into how to design gender inclusively by:
Including different perspectives within the design team
Simone concluded by giving one last bit of useful advice;
“Inclusive Design = different people but not different designs!”
Next up was Claire Gowler, a Ruby on Rails developer who came down from Sheffield to share her thoughts on how developers and designers can better understand what gender means and how designs can be inclusive for non-binary users. Claire explained how it is estimated that 1 in 5 users in the UK identify as non-binary, and therefore a lot of users are excluded from software through not asking about gender correctly.
A key issue for non-binary users is the privacy implication software can have. For example for people with multiple profiles, there might be sensitive information and in some instances it can put them in an awkward position when asked for a ‘real’ name. Mark Zuckerberg said that using a Facebook alias would ‘show a lack of integrity’ however there may be many reasons for needing to do this, as shown below:
Claire gave a great summary on how designers can make improvements and improve UX for non-binary users.
Following two thought evoking talks by Simone and Claire, the floor was opened to allow for some amazing discussions, with a wide range of topics including the pay gap between males and females, the discriminatory language used in job ads, as well as addressing the relevance of gender in user research and testing. With plenty of insight to take away from the evening, I think these two thoughts sum up the night well:
“If you can design for everybody, you won’t get it wrong”
“When you assume you know the user, it can quickly become a stereotype – don’t let bias slip in”
We would love to hear your thoughts on the evening, and any comments you have regarding your own experiences with gender and design – firstname.lastname@example.org