August 17, 2022

Maggie Delano, a quantified self scholar and PhD candidate at MIT, had an experience similar to mine

Maggie Delano, a quantified self scholar and PhD candidate at MIT, had an experience similar to mine

In the current iteration of Eve, the emoji code is banana with a condom, banana without a condom, or a peach, and users can still redeem collectible gems to get sex tips

She wrote about period-tracking apps in a popular Medium post in 2015. Delano couldn’t get Clue to understand that she had a shorter, often irregular cycle because it literally wouldn’t let her input a cycle that short, and it wouldn’t let her remove the algorithmically generated “fertile window” from her calendar despite the fact that there was no physical possibility of her getting pregnant with her partner, who was also a woman.

The first iteration of Eve was criticized for referring to its users as “girls” and describing sex with cutesy emoji code that centered solely on dicks: banana with a condom, banana without a condom, or no banana

“These assumptions aren’t just a matter of having a few extra annoying boxes on the in-app calendar that one can easily ignore,” she wrote. “They are yet another example of technology telling queer, unpartnered, infertile, and/or women uninterested in procreating that they aren’t even women.”

Glow was even worse. The first onboarding screen asks users to choose their “journey” and provides three choices: avoiding pregnancy, trying to conceive, and fertility treatments. “Five seconds in, I’m already trying to ignore the app’s assumptions that pregnancy is why I want to track my period,” Delano wrote.

Glow launched with the have a peek at these guys promise of using data to “help you get pregnant.” In 2014, it raked in a funding round of $17 million – including major investments from Andreessen Horowitz and the Founders Fund – which it then used to branch out from its initial pregnancy-oriented offerings and create Eve, an app for documenting “your period and sex life.” This was a logical decision: Glow realized half of its users were not trying to get pregnant but trying to avoid getting pregnant. And those are very different market demographics.

“People are realizing, oh, women or cycling people spend money on things and we want money from them,” Delano tells me in a phone call. “But the assumptions drive the products in a weird direction.”

Period-tracking apps are not conceived of as mass-market products but as niche products: “shrink it and pink it,” the familiar guiding ethos of sportswear and basic household tools. They have odd design elements, like floating clouds, superfluous flowers, and strange faux-empowering language where straightforward medical terminology would more than suffice. They’re a product of the culture of Silicon Valley user interface design: mostly male, and predicated on quantitative metrics like interaction counts and time spent.

“Popular wisdom about ‘engagement’ meets weird ideas about femininity, and you get a lot of design and product choices that are quite questionable,” Wachter-Boettcher tells me. “It’s funny because people don’t do this kind of thing if they’re designing a health app about literally anything else.”

Can you imagine a glucose-tracking app laid out in Candy Crush aesthetics? How about a blood alcohol content tracker shouting out its users as “bro” each time they opened the app? Of course not! But you’re just tracking your period symptoms for fun, or to avoid being cpon, right? Why not decorate it?

The ways in which period-tracking or fertility-tracking apps are different reveal the ways most designers think of them: as products that provide information that’s not actually very serious or important medically, and that should exist mostly to convince a woman to spend as much time as possible looking at ads, while supplying the owner with as robust a data set as possible, so they can better target more ads.