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Comparing Two Major Websites Mass media Essay

The reason for this report is to compare two websites. Both sites are similar in terms with their content and framework because of the fact they are aimed at similar demographics. Nevertheless the sites will vary in terms of the gender of the target audience or user. Both sites that will be considered will be the homepages for GQ - Newspaper, typically targeted at a male audience and Cosmopolitan Journal, typically aimed at a female audience. GQ - Newspaper, hereafter GQ, is a favorite, 'up - market', men's magazine boasting fashion, business, sport etc. It appears to be focusing on a 'blue chip' demographic; young men with a sizable disposable income. That is apparent through the content of the site, featuring expensive devices, 'flashy restaurants' and expensive fashion items (see amount. 1).

Figure one: exemplory case of GQ products

Cosmopolitan Magazine, hereafter Cosmopolitan, is also a favorite, 'up - market', women's magazine, the website features issues on employment opportunities, beauty and getaways. It also is apparently focusing on a 'blue chip' demographic, namely, ladies in their middle twenties to early on thirties with a sizable disposable income. This is apparent through this content of the website, featuring expensive cosmetics; hotel getaways and lingerie (see amount. 2).

Figure Two: Exemplory case of Cosmopolitan products

The following record will explore the several strategies that each of both sites utilizes in concentrating on its gender group.

'Betty Friedan's 'The Female Mystique (1963) emphasised the impact of popular women's newspapers, whose articles, fiction and advertising celebrated an extremely particular form of local, suburban femininity, one which controlled in a sphere almost completely distinct from that of men' ( Carter & Steiner, Critical Readings: Mass media and gender, Site 1).

This clearly outlines that products targeted at different genders will have completely different attributes. We would therefore expect a male orientated website to be designed diversely to a female orientated website and it is this aspect that will be explored. We will analyze the sites in terms with their structure, selection of coloring, use of fonts and images so that they can discover what importance these aspects have in focusing on a specific gender group.

Homepage Framework and Content

On starting GQ's homepage, the first thing the user is met with is a series of semi - naked, famous women that alternative through flash computer animation. The pictures consume almost the whole left hand aspect of the site and are accompanied by text. For example, there's a picture of Nell McAndrew and the written text below says, 'Nell McAndrew shows off her beach bod'. This is done in an attempt to draw the user to this content of the website. 'Use images of identifiable people who have a connection with the content instead of models or common stock images' (Nielsen & Tahir, Homepage Usability, Page 22). This use of flash animation signifies a scientific theme, something that the male gender is commonly associated with. 'Men are thought as competitive and technologically inclined'. (Carter & Steiner, Web page 244) This man gendered theme is continued with the use of dark masculine colours such as blacks and blues, something will be reviewed later in this survey. The web page itself is quite small with virtually no free space, design taking up the majority of the page (see amount 3); however it is designed with ease for an individual in mind. The site can be easily read, the written text is large and bold, black word on light backgrounds and white word on dark backgrounds. Every one of the design on the webpage are settings of navigation taking someone to a particular area of the site. Further navigation is neatly placed at the top of the webpage. 'When you utilize design to purposefully illustrate content, you can greatly boost a homepage'. (Nielsen & Tahir, Page 22)

Figure Three: GQ Homepage

In comparability, Cosmopolitan is a much less creative paradigm. The web page contains very few technical aspects, the only animation being the navigation boxes in the bottom of the webpage. The web page is simplistic with a great deal of free white space, 'white space can guide the attention and help users understand the grouping of information' (Jakob Nielsen, Making Web Usability, Page 18). This is really true of Cosmopolitan. The written text is centrally positioned on the web page making it simple and easy to understand and use. The web page is elegantly designed with bright pink wording over a white background, made to draw the user to the info. Handful of graphics can be used on the site, a guy and girl kissing in the left hand nook and a picture of an issue of the publication placed centrally on the webpage. The navigation is tidily put around these, with the key navigation club, in dark pink at the top of the webpage. The web page was clearly made with simplicity and simplicity at heart; the 'container detail' graphics effectively isolate themselves from the core topics, which makes it easy for the user to navigate throughout the webpage. Cosmopolitan is clearly aimed at the female demographic; the choice of shade is taking care of which will be discussed later. The other aspect is the design, which displays the capabilities we associate with the female gender, elegance, style and convenience.

Figure Four: Cosmopolitan Homepage

Both homepages stick to the stereotypical conventions of just what a homepage should appear to be in terms of composition and content. They were created easily for the user in mind. The content of the site is purposefully improved and recognisable from the onset. 'The first immediate goal of any homepage is to answer the questions, where am I? And exactly what does this web site do?' (Nielsen, Site 167). However it has been exhibited that this goal is met in two different ways because the websites are appealing to two different genders. GQ adhering to the key signifier of your home page directed at a male audience, thus having very little free space, being theoretically enhanced and using dark colours. On the other hand, Cosmopolitan also adheres to the main element signifier of a homepage directed at a female audience, thus having plenty of free space, minimal technology and using dazzling, light colours. It is not by accident that such contrasting designs have been utilized, each design has been carefully organized so as to suit the needs and objectives of its demographic.

Use of Shade:

The GQ Logo uses a combo of orange and white, orange being the real words 'GQ' and white for the backdrop. The remainder of the webpage uses combinations of light and dark blues as well as dark. A survey was conducted in the first 1940s by Eysenck so that they can see what colors were preferred by certain genders. In respect of orange, he found that 'yellow was preferred to orange by women and orange to yellow by men' (Khouw). According of blues he found that 'blue for men sticks out far more than for women' (Khouw). In this particular paradigm, the signifier 'Orange' has connotations that seem towards masculinity; these connotations are obtained through social rules, 'Roman Jakobson emphasised that the development and interpretation of text messages is determined by the living of codes' (Chandler. D, Semiotics the Basics, Web page 147). When asked if the coloring orange is more masculine or feminine, one individual said, 'I think it's more masculine, you see it on rugby tops therefore you connect it with the orange mobile phone custom logo and blokes are usually more into telephones than women' (Guy, Age 21). Therefore the 'signified' as depicted by 'Sassure' is the fact the web page could be assumed to be male orientated because the color orange is more associated with men. 'Sassure identified a sign as being made up of a signifier and a signified' (Chandler, Web page 18). Likewise, with the use of the signifier blue we can also get after similar connotations. One college student said, 'blue is obviously a mans color, baby clothes for young boys are always blue' (Female, Aged 21). Again this connotation comes from social codes, in cases like this, babies clothing. Therefore the signified conclusion is usually that the Syntagm or combination of the colours Orange and blue on the GQ homepage, signify that this site is probably targeted at a male demographic.

In comparison Cosmopolitan uses only two main colorings namely, pink and white. However this also has important connotations. 'Connotation is a term explaining the relationship between the signifier and the signified'. (Chandler, Site 140) In cases like this the Syntagm or mixture of two signifiers specifically pink and white have connotations of femininity, therefore the signified final result being that page is most likely designed for a lady demographic. Again, these assumptions that white and pink are associated with women are based on social codes. When asked whether green was a female or masculine colour, one person said, 'red is definitely female, it's on our clothes, shoes, accessories, everything' (Girl, Older 20).

It is quite clear that coloring performs an important role in the design of a homepage. Certain colorings are preferred by certain genders, other colours are simply mounted on certain genders, red for ladies and blue for men. The use of color therefore must play an important role in expressing the gender orientation of any web page; this is something which will be analyzed later in this survey by using the 'Commutation Test'.

Text and Fonts

There is not a lot of difference between your wording of the GQ homepage and that of the Cosmopolitan homepage. Both sites screen large bold text message, this is actually done in order to draw the user to the web page and enhance content. However there are some differences. First of all, despite both sites having large bold text, GQ will have much larger and bolder wording than that of the Cosmopolitan homepage. An expert review was carried out on different designs of homepages; in particular the review was interested in the written text sizes of different sites and whether this experienced any links with gender distinctions. 'Font size. Gender issue, women like smaller font' (Expert Review). This article is also concerned as to whether any font styles are usually considered masculine or female. The GQ homepage uses Arial font and Cosmopolitan uses Verdana. That is quite interesting; a report completed by Karleen Weitzel reveals that A womanly font is generally more flowing, beautiful, and isn't usually extremely uniform. A masculine font is generally comprised of upright lines and perfect circles. She gives types of both Feminine and masculine fonts; some womanly fonts include, 'bickley script, monotype corsiva, paintbrush, script, Old British, and venice (Weitzel). She added that masculine fonts tend to include, impact, haettenshweiler, Lucinda gaming system, the arial fonts (regular, dark, and slim), tahoma, courier new, and verdana (Weitzel). As specified above, Cosmopolitan uses Verdana, this moves contrary to the stereotypical developments that Weitzel highlighted, she said that Verdana was at simple fact, a masculine font. However GQ adheres to the stereotypical tendencies defined by Weitzel by using the Arial font which is known as a masculine font. Despite Cosmopolitan rejecting the stereotypical style of the feminine font and implementing a more masculine one, the website still represents femininity in its words by using smaller, fragile sized wording.

So where do these assumptions of feminine and masculine fonts derive? The connotations associated with these fonts certainly reveal the masculine and female ideals. Men are large, strong animals and women are small sensitive creatures, which means signifiers or font styles and sizes used, reflect this. Because of this the signified final result would be, if the written text is large, daring and straight lined, this site is most probably targeting a male demographic. In opposition, if the text is small, sensitive and standard, the signified result would be that site is most likely targeting a lady demographic. 'Anything is a sign as long as someone interprets it as signifying something, discussing or standing up for something other than itself' (Chandler, Web page 17).


GQ is without a doubt relying on the utilization of images to attract the audience to the homepage and deeper in to the content of the site. As previously mentioned in this report, the flash animation images on the webpage, take up the complete left hand aspect. The images consist of famous women such as, Kylie Minogue, Nell McAndrew and Gwen Stefani. All of them are posing in an exceedingly seductive manner, some with their legs open, other cup their chest on the camera. That is a clear indicator of this site being directed at a male demographic. The site offers images that will entice the user to the site presumably because the images will amuse the prospective audience; however these images are purposely positioned to be able to attract the audience to the site, therefore benefiting the user and the company. 'Learning semiotics can help us to be aware of the mediating roles of symptoms'' (Chandler, Web page 14). The usage of famous people further adds to the attraction of the site as it is using images that an individual can identify with. It's important at this time to clarify how these images present the theory that this webpage is aimed at a male audience. This is done through a semiotic research. 'Semiotics seeks to analyse texts as organised wholes and investigates latent, connotative meanings' (Chandler, Site 8). It is fair to state that because there are pictures of women on the web page, doesn't mean from the male orientated website. True, however it is the 'gaze' and 'pose' of the superstars that connote interpretation. Social codes are described in Semiotics the fundamentals as including physical codes such as, 'bodily contact, appearance, facial expression, gaze, position' (Chandler, Webpage 149) It really is through these codes that we derive meaning or connotations. If we take the picture of Gwen Stefani for example, (see figure five) the signifier being the picture of her, we notice three things. Firstly she has very little clothing on and the clothing she has is silky and seductive. Secondly she is gazing straight at the camera, thus directly at the user and finally her lower limbs are wide open portraying a sexually seductive present. These bodily rules connote that the picture is wanting to seduce an individual of this site, attract those to the image and make them want to wander deeper into the content of the website. These types of images are not used on a lady orientated site and then the signified final result is that site is male orientated. When asked whether this site is male or female orientated, based on the images only, one individual said, 'at first it's perplexing because there are pictures of restaurants, cocktails and bars which I would connect with women, but when I found the pictures of the girls and their poses I recognized it was targeted at men' (Woman, Older 20).

Figure five: Gwen Steffani

Cosmopolitan on the other palm, uses much less images and certainly none that have erotic connotative value. The one main image on the site is of a guy and woman kissing in the left hand corner. The user is drawn to this image but it does not take concern over this content on the webpage. Interestingly initially it didn't seem as if a semiotic research could be performed on this to justify a well argued signified bottom line, however closer analysis of the picture conveys a deeper so this means. (see number six). Again, we will take a look at the pose. The person in the picture is seen as unimportant; he's turned away from the camera by the girl hand. As opposed to this, although the girl is not directly looking at the camera, her face can be seen by an individual, you can view what she looks like and for that reason this signifies her goal in the picture. This cause also connotes that she is more dominating than the person in the photography; she is turning his mind away and allowing her face to consider priority. Therefore it could be argued that this image in the signified sense connotes that this site is feminine orientated. Although the woman is not of utmost importance, her present certainly suggests her superiority to the male. This serves an objective; the website is giving an individual an image they want, connoting ability and control over the male types. This image in a way portrays the realities of life that women can dominate and be superior to men. 'In determining realities, signs provide ideological functions' (Chandler, Webpage 15).

Figure six: Cosmo Image

It is clear that images play a huge role in helping to target a particular gender. For men, love-making sells. A niche site called body and mind declared that 'beauty has electricity over us' (mind and body). And for women, offering realities and reminding them of the importance and equality in relation to men also offers. It really is clear these images have importance in signifying the targeted gender of the sites. In the final stages of this article we will put this to the test utilizing the 'commutation test', so that they can clarify the value of key signifiers over a homepage and the top connotations they have got.

Commutation Test:

The commutation test can help us to comprehend the value of certain areas of a website and what affect this has on the user's interpretation of the written text. Within this test we can look at two aspects, namely shade and images. We will change the color and images so that they can determine what connotations is now able to be attracted from the written text and whether these will discord with the connotations drawn previously. 'Structuralist semioticians make reference to the 'Commutation Test' which can be found in order to identify distinctive signifiers also to define their significance - determining whether a change on the level of the signifier causes an alteration on the level of the signified' (Chandler, Page 100). There are certain varieties that the test may take, for example substitution, transposition, addition and deletion, paradigmatic and syntagmatic transformations respectively. Because of the lack of ability to execute the genuine test, several people, blended genders, were asked concerning whether certain changes would impact their judgment on whether the site was male or female orientated.

The first test was a paradigmatic change. 'A paradigm is a couple of associated signifiers which are all associates of some defining category' (Chandler, Page 80), in this case the paradigmatic change was shade. The question posed was with regards to the GQ homepage. If this web site was pink and white, what gender do you consider it might be targeting?

'If it was pink and white it would be a girl's site, ladies love red, and their clothes are red. Plus you always see those American movies with the stereotypical young young lady and everything they own is pink' (Man, Aged 21)

'Like I stated before, I already assumed it was female orientated until I noticed the girls upon it as a result of pubs and cocktails publicized onto it, if it was pink and white, I would definitely suppose it was a young girls site. (Girl, Aged 20)

Taking into consideration what the last female possessed said. I made a decision to ask again, only this time around I would syntagmatically change the site. 'A syntagm is an orderly combo of interacting signifiers which forms a meaningful whole entire in the content material'. (Chandler, Webpage 81) In cases like this the syntagmatic change would be the deletion of the large picture on the left hand part of the GQ homepage. So the question posed was, if the pictures on the remaining hand side were not there, what gender demographic would the website be targeting?

'If I was just to glance at it I would probably say a woman, as a result of pubs and restaurant advertising' (Men, Aged 21)

'I agree, I would assume it to be a young ladies site, the pictures of the cocktails and pubs are 'girly', we like cocktails, blokes just drink pints' (Girl, Aged 20)

From the reactions received, it is unquestionably that both coloring and images play a substantial role in the gender representation or identification of the web page. Merely changing the colour or deleting an image had a huge impact on people's ideas. This commutation test identifies the importance of web page design. Things must be orchestrated in a well-planned manner to be able to reach the prospective demographic, in this case women or men. It really is these design techniques, the thought for coloring and images, that essentially will make or break the success of you website.


In conclusion, this survey has discussed some very important details with regards to the look and construction of any website. Although they are similar in the paradigmatic sense and provide to appeal to an identical demographic, they will vary in their approaches to provide their demographic, namely men or women. That is done subtly through the use of colours, font size, font styles and images. Despite the subtlety of such dissimilarities, they play a significant role in attractive to the target individual. It's been by having a semiotic research of the websites that has outlined the value of such differences. Sassure asserted the value between your signifier and the signified and it is drawing attention to this model and making use of the areas of web sites that helps us to bring after important connotations in respect of colour, text and the use of images. It is our association with rules and conventions that helps us to identify the link between the signifier and the signified, this is something that is accepted by GQ and Cosmopolitan thus detailing why their designs were contacted differently. The issues brought up in this article will certainly be studied forward to the next assignment in planning a genuine website considering that the evidence offered clearly implies that the design of the website, whether it's coloring or images, is of great importance to the success in reaching the target individual. 'So this means is not transmitted to us, we positively create it corresponding to a sophisticated interplay of rules and conventions which we are usually unaware' (Chandler, Web page 14).

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