TECHNOLOGY

How to Design Tech Products for Females

Designers need to thoroughly understand their female customers' needs before they build a women's product.That's a lot easier, Cheryl Kellond discovered, if you are one.
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Cheryl Kellond hated the GPS sports watches she started buying after she discovered her inner triathlete four years ago. They had too many buttons, endless manuals, a short battery life, and they were either too big or ugly. "Three of them made my arm numb," she says.

So Kellond and fellow athlete Sylvia Marino set out to design a sports watch with women's bodies and lifestyles in mind--it would be smaller, with long battery life, data tracking, GPS, and style. They named their future product Bia, after the Greek goddess of force and power--and the younger sister of the goddess Nike. "We had to make something badass," says Kellond, a former Silicon Valley marketing executive.

Marino and Kellond spent hundreds of hours quizzing women athletes in their swim, cycling, and running clubs about what they wanted in a watch. The result is a small watch with controls designed for the wrist, and another device, which clips to the athlete's clothes, that contains the GPS, accelerometer, and a 17-hour rechargeable battery, long enough for an entire triathlon (compared with four hours for one women's GPS Kellond bought).

The designers included a feature that speaks directly to the female athlete: an SOS button that sends text messages to a list of family or friends with the athlete's GPS location. Female athletes' families worry when they're out on long workouts. This is stressful for the athlete.The SOS function reassures the family, which reduces the athlete's stress and lets her focus on her workout--a brilliant insight into the female psyche that probably wouldn't occur to a male watch designer.

When they pitched the product to (all male) VCs, the men couldn't understand why women didn't use existing GPS products. "They couldn't wrap their heads around the gap we saw," Kellond says.

Instead, Marino and Kellond raised $408,118 in 36 days on Kickstarter. An estimated 90 percent of the backers were women. The company eventually received $1.1 million from investors. Today, with $550,000 in presale orders, the company has started shipping the device. And, like so many tech designers before them, Kellond and Marino learned that by focusing on the needs of women, they've created a better product for everyone: An estimated 20 percent of preordered Bia watches will land on a man's wrist. 

 

 

From the April 2014 issue of Inc. magazine




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