Websites allow global product and services distribution through intranets, extranets and internet Websites. Both groups of designers and professional analysts concur that a well-designed user interface is an essential component that improves the appeal and operation of the Web, allowing “browsers” or “tourists” to be converted into “customers” and “residents.” Recognizing demographic diversity and understanding the users are the two main focus of attention in the user-interface development process. However, these differences may demonstrate worldwide cultures in a global economy. The impact of culture in web content and tools is a factor which companies that aim to engage in online international business should consider.
Few important pointers should be regarded. For instance, a person has a favorite website, how might this site be understood in countries like Paris, USA, London, Japan, or India, assuming that enough verbal translation are carried out? There might be something in a website’s metaphors, interaction, mental model or even the appearance offend or alienate a user. The date, most particularly, the year, is also one of the factors to be considered. For instance, the year is 2000; in other country’s systems it is 1420, 4698 or 5760. The mere counting system might alienate or confuse users of another culture who are using their own native system. Take into account the order in which an individual prefer to retrieve information. If one is planning to travel by train, would he or she want to check the scheduled information first or go over the organization and evaluate its credibility? Diverse cultures look for different information before they come up with decisions.
The complex interaction of user, engineering demands, marketing and business must be decided by web user-interface and information designers. However, as they accomplish these tasks, they would do well to consider their own cultural orientation and to analyze the processes and preferred structures of other cultures. This process would serve to reach a more desirable global solutions or to decide as to what degree customized designs might be best than universal ones.
Cultures, especially within other nations, are very different. Colors in Judeo-Christian that are considered sacred are different from the Buddhist and Islam. The designs for background screen patterns might not be suited in Mediterranean climates or in other countries. All these differences run deeper than mere visual aspects; they portray strong cultural values. How might all these differences be translated without getting into the trap of culture-stereotyping?
According to Hofstede (as cited in Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc, n.d.), a Dutch cultural anthropologist who developed the cross-cultural theory, it is hard to establish complete criteria pertaining to what is noble from what is disgusting. Bias will always be a factor because the cultural values of the people are based on their environment and early childhood. Not all in a society meets the cultural pattern but there is adequate demographic regularity to distinguish trends and tendencies. Such trends and tendencies must not be perceived in a negative way as if creating negative stereotypes, instead, be identified as patterns of values and thoughts. It is important to collaborate to accomplish practical goals without expecting anyone to believe, think and act identically.
Hofstede presented his five dimensions of culture which have implications on web design. If Hofstede’s theory becomes recognized for user-interface design, perhaps people need to modify the present practices and develop new instruments. People must make it feasible to produce several website versions in a cost-effective way, maybe using templates or any versioning instruments. As the web keeps on developing globally, addressing all the concerns using exploration and exploitation, the cultural dimensions will be a necessity and not just one of the options for a successful theory.
Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc. (n.d.) User interface design. Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://www.amanda.com/home/home_f.html
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