We reviewed the research to better understand the major characteristics of website developers. These developers are the main (primary) audience for the webusability.com website. One good study was reported by ‘A List Apart’ in September 2012.
They conducted a survey of over 15,000 developers (worldwide) with the goal of finding out more information about the people who create websites.
Some of their results are shown below:
- Female: 18%
- Male: 82%
- 18 and under: 1%
- 19-29: 44%
- 30-44: 48%
- 45-64: 7%
- 65 and over: <1%
- Grade/Primary School: 1%
- High School: 7%
- Some College: 19%
- College Degree: 58%
- Master’s Degree: 14%
- Doctorate: 1%
Type of Organization
- Corporate: 71%
- Consultants: 29%
Using the results from this study, we probably could conclude that most website developers are male (82%), between the ages of 19 and 44 (92%), have a college degree (73%), and work for a company (71%). It is interesting that only about half (54%) of those surveyed reported that their formal education had any relevance to their website development work.
An even a more interesting finding from this study is that there is a relatively small number of female developers of websites (less than 20%). Other recent research has reported that female users (a) use the web less, (b) are more focused on social cues, (c) report lower levels of web confidence and knowledge, and (d) take fewer risks on the web. Others also have found that females are (a) less frequent and less intense users than males, (b) less frequent online purchasers, and (c) driven by different motives, i.e., ‘women by social motives, and men by search and enjoyment’.
This profile appears to change, however, when females have design experience. With design experience, females have (a) a higher self-belief than the average female user, and (b) their perceptions of the web’s value become stronger than even males with similar design experience.
There is a commonly held belief that ‘technology is gender neutral’. But the question becomes, “how can the web be ‘gender neutral’ if the web design profession and technology usage are dominated by males who are creating a ‘masculine computer culture’ and ‘masculine discourse’, and causing the prioritization of technical over social issues in web design?” This study showed that confidence in one’s knowledge and perceptions of web technology are not gender neutral, but in fact are highly influenced by the gender of both the user and designer.
Another recent study attempted to discover whether there were websites or component variables within websites which might or might not be preferred by males or females. They selected a random sample of male and female students.
Each was shown a copy of the home page of six websites and asked to rate them using these categories:
- Overall site
- Style of language used
- Pictures used in the website
- Shapes that were used
- Layout of the website
- Typeface colors
Was the following homepage prototype developed by a female or male developer?
Their research found that females reliably preferred the websites produced by females, including
- The language used in websites produced by females
- The shapes that appeared in websites produced by females
- The layout of websites produced by females
- The typeface colors in the websites produced by females, and
- The pictures contained in websites produced by females
The males reliably preferred the website characteristics produced by males, including
- The language produced by males
- The layout produced by males
- The typeface colors used by males
The only exception was that males reliably preferred the pictures contained in websites produced by females.
Many of our existing websites are probably not gender neutral. If so, this is likely to continue for a long, long time – until we have many more female website developers. I suspect that in most cases it does not matter that much, but there may be some critical situations where a male-biased website could make a big difference.
 Page, K., Robson, M. and Uncles, M.D., Perceptions of Web knowledge and usability: When sex and experience matter, International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 2012.
 Moss, G.A. and Gunn, R.W., Gender differences in website production and preference aesthetics, Behaviour & Information Technology, 28 (5), September-October 2009, 447–46.