Dear Internet: Women Are Way More Complicated Than That

Here at the Labs, we're all about planning for the user experience -- we do user research, we develop personas to help us identify with our users, we painstakingly wireframe out the tiny details of user interfaces, and we develop content structures for the way our users think about content. Having gone through that process countless times during the past several years, I can't browse the web without noticing how the web sites I visit have planned for my needs.

While my favorite sites have done a great job of understanding what I want and providing relevant content based on that understanding, there are some sites that fail because they make assumptions based on demographic information rather than user research. A perfect example of this is Yahoo!'s foray into female-targeted social networking. It launched a few years ago; but, it made such an impression that as I began thinking this week about the notion of targeting content to women (it came up in a class I'm taking), Yahoo! Shine was the first thing that leapt to mind.

I first encountered Shine a year ago when I read a press release about its clever new strategy of focusing on women. Shine was meant to be a hub of content and community for all things women are interested in. That seemed like a pretty cool idea ... in theory.

Before I go any further, I'd just like to clarify: I am a woman. That means I can say with some certainty that being a woman is pretty complicated. But, don't take my word for it -- there's a whole body of research out there on gender's complex role in society, psychology, and sociology.

Which is exactly why it's irritating to see sites like Shine define a bizarre and limited set of things women are interested in as its core content: Manage Your Life, Fashion & Beauty, Healthy Living, Parenting, Love & Sex, Food, and Astrology.

Seriously? You pick seven things to define what women want to talk about and *astrology* makes the cut?

Maybe it's just me, but I spend a lot more time talking about politics, current events, and entertainment than astrology. In fact, I probably spend more time talking about nuclear fission than about astrology. The fact that this, and other superficial content areas such as "Fashion & Beauty," are the key elements of a site meant to be all about women's interests is a clear indication to me that the people behind the content are out of touch. Even worse, they think I'm defined by make-up tips and horoscopes. That's kind of insulting.

Surprisingly, Shine still seems to be hanging in there a few years after launch -- but, it's not a community I'll ever participate in. I wish there was a place where real women talk about real stuff. It's a good idea. But, as far as I'm concerned, Shine fell very short of the mark in its attempt to build that place.

Also surprisingly, I haven't seen many other examples of web sites dedicated entirely to women even as the idea remains a popular marketing theory. Do you, fellow Interneters, have any examples of sites for women that do a good job of providing and soliciting content that "real" women are interested in?

April Mohr Harding

,
Posted in Article Category: #News & Culture
on