A male avatar as default. I don't wear ties.

I just stumbled upon yet another example of puzzling, gender-biased UX/UI that flies under the radar and dismisses half of its users.

ManageWP places on every profile a male avatar wearing a tie as default that can’t be changed easily. The company suggests you pull into your profile a new avatar by heading to a 3rd party site, Gravatar, where you have to register to proceed. ManageWP doesn’t seem to find it appropriate to give its customers the choice between two basic avatars, male and female, or one gender-neutral option, when users first create their profile, as so many other companies do.

This is not a joke. This is the year 2020.

After back and forth texting with the company that didn’t solve the problem, I headed to the 3rd party site, Gravatar. It took me more than 10 minutes to register and sign on to pull in my image of choice. Gravatar only lets you use a wordpress.com account to register. I dug up an old blog login that I still had and used that. If you don’t have a free Wordpress.com account, you’re out of luck and stuck with your male avatar on ManageWP.

It took me months to realize that my avatar on ManageWP was a man in a tie. I use ManageWP for myself and my clients and pay good money to a company that offers me technical innovations that help me tremendously in my work but is culturally stuck in the 1950s. That is a real dilemma for me personally.

As a woman in tech, who has been coding and designing websites since 1998, I’ve had my share of sexism. Emails addressed to “Sir”, others who mansplain my own work to me, computer admins asking me in all sincerity whether I have “turned on my computer” when an issue arises, or the ambiguous “Hey guys!” wherever I turn (I wrote an article about that: Don’t Assume I’m a Guy—Gender-Neutral Marketing.)

I am tired of this daily struggle. Yes, we may have bigger issues to tackle, but this lazy default practice in creating customer engagement and interfaces needs to stop.

After complaining to ManageWP, they replied that the avatar designer was a woman, and they MIGHT consider changing the design in the future.

Seriously, that’s your answer?

So in 2010, when ManageWP was launched, the UI designer, man or woman, was tasked with creating one default avatar for users and only came up with a male version? And no one noticed? Management asleep at the wheel.

Then I was informed in another message by ManageWP that my complaint was „forwarded to the appropriate department“, that they hope changes can be made in the future, that they “can’t make any promises”, however, but that they hope I understand. No, I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why it is so hard to change that male default avatar immediately. That should not be too difficult to pull off.

Get a designer or photoshop the tie out of your current design! Too hard? I’ll do that for you in a few minutes. An example at left.

But then I got another message that indicated that maybe attitudes might change at ManageWP (and I do appreciate that the company did engage with me at all. Their customer support center functions well).

“I understand your point of view completely,” writes Ivana, “and I strongly agree that we should change this as soon as possible, so I’ll try to advocate a swift change on your behalf. :)”

Thank you. Maybe it does take a woman at ManageWP, after all, to get this done?

My female (and male!) design colleagues: Please don’t be complacent and complicit, speak up and design with all of us in mind!

Copyright © 2020 Tekla Szymanski | Content Design™ LLC
All rights reserved. Please share/quote with attribution.

Content Strategy & Curation, Editorial Services, Web Dev for Content-Rich Websites with a Global Reach. | tekla-szymanski.com | linkedin.com/in/teklaszymanski/

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