On top of our visual predilection, women tend to notice more visual details than men, and that holds true on the web. Successful firms that market to moms and moms-to-be understand this and go beyond by using visual design to address the psychology behind their target customers' buying decisions.
My team and I recently visited the web sites of 22 mom-centric companies, noting the design and marketing trends weaving through the group. We found the following common threads:
1. Non gender-specific color schemes. Only two websites used pink as the primary color; four used blue. The others used non gender-specific colors-orange, green, yellow, and purple-or neutrals like gray. While this may be a practical matter in that a designer can't know whether a visitor has a baby girl or boy, it may also have much to do with the reluctance of modern parents to place babies into a gender "box," much as it is out of fashion to steer girls away from math in school.
2. Increasing sophistication. Following a trend in maternity clothing, web design for moms is growing increasingly sophisticated. In our survey of home pages, there was nary a crayon drawing in sight; Pampers Village used paint blobs, and Tumblon used an illustration of a child playing with blocks. Of featured maternity clothing, the colors predominating were decidedly un-childlike-blacks, deep grays, reds, navy blues, browns-and the cuts were refined, from the floor-length black gown at Isabella Oliver to the tiered red dress at Belly Dance Maternity.
3. Text as a design element. The use of oversized display typography and text-heavy design is a noticeable trend. Of the sites we visited, four home pages made use of oversized typography, and five were text-heavy to the extent images merely accented the text, even on websites selling products rather than simply dispensing advice.
4. Vector illustrations. Among mom-centric websites photos continue to dominate, and who can blame them ... what's more ahh-inducing than a close-up of a baby with downy cheeks? Vector illustrations are mounting a challenge, though, from word bubbles at iVillage to colorful circles at Due Maternity. Case in point: The vector illustrations in the menu bar at Hanna Andersson. (In design lingo, raster images like photos are made of pixels and lose quality when enlarged, while vector images are drawn in certain software and do not lose their crispness when resized.)
5. Clean layouts paired with limited options. Most of the websites offered clear and welcoming guidance to the visitor in prominent areas of the home page. On average, they limited the choice of "next step" to six well-defined choices, relegating further options to more subtle menu bars. The twin-focused Kiki & Bree home page, for instance, featured four choices: shop for twin-perfect gifts, visit forums to talk with other parents of twins, shop for made-for-twin clothing, or shop for toys. An exception? The otherwise well-designed Carter's website overwhelmed with 11 largely unrelated choices on its home page, from applying for a MasterCard to reading about infant layettes. When deciding what to feature on your home page, it's better to keep the choices to a minimum-and make sure each one is central to your core business.
A possible trend we see on the horizon for mom-centric websites is the use of transparent effects, which can evoke both the softness associated with babies and the new sophistication associated with today's affluent moms.