Ars Technica's Casey Johnson has designed a handy checklist for people hoping to develop a "woman's" tech product without being sexist jerks. The first step is ensuring that there is, indeed, some need that is unique to women (an important step -- women don't need their own pens, Bic). And obviously, you can't just make a pink version or a version that has fewer features and declare it to be chick-ready. Johnson then counsels against avoiding merely making things more "design-y" and declaring it to be woman-friendly (guys like things that look good too).
The third sin of targeting a female demographic is making a product that is functionally worse than products in the same category (and then optionally applying either of the two problems above). Technology that is complicated or difficult to use is a man’s game, goes the theory. For women, it must be dumbed down to make it easier to use, or perhaps women simply don’t care if something has less functionality than the comparable “men’s products.”
Examples of this abound. Take smartphones targeted at women, or the mystifyingly bad ePad Femme tablet, released in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. HTC gave us the Rhyme, which was a worse smartphone than its contemporaries by most measures but which made up for that by having very fashionable purple accessories that women AND their Rhymes could wear together like a grown-up version of My Size Barbie. Microsoft has wisely not released its prototype bra that uses vital sensors, not for general health monitoring purposes, but to predict and prevent "emotional eating."
Flowchart: How not to design a "woman’s" tech product [Casey Johnston/Ars Technica]
(Image: Aurich Lawson/Ars Technica)