Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design

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Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc. California and New York California 1144 65th Street, Suite F Emeryville, CA 94608-1053 USA

Tel: 510-601-0994 Fax: 510-547-6125 E-mail: Mail@AMandA.com Web: www.AMandA.com

Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design: What? So What? Now What? This paper introduces dimensions of culture, as analyzed by Geert Hofstede in his classic study of cultures in organizations, and considers how they might affect user-interface designs. Examples from the Web illustrate the cultural dimensions.

Experience Intelligent Design
User Interfaces Information Visualization

Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design

Introduction

Aaron Marcus, President Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc. 1144 65th Street, Suite F Emeryville, CA 94608 USA Tel: 510-601-0994, Ext. 19 Fax: 510-547-6125 Email: Aaron@AmandA.com Web: www.Amanda.com

Emilie W. Gould, Adjunct Lally School of Management Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) 110 8th St. Troy, NY 12180-3590 Email: goulde@rpi.edu

© Copyright 2001 AM+A. This document is confidential and proprietary. AM+A.CultDim.pdf

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Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design

Introduction

Contents
Introduction 4 A New Issue for User-Interface Designers 5 Hofstede's Dimensions of Culture 7 Power Distance (PD) 8 Individualism vs. Collectivism (IC) 12 Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS) 16 Uncertainty Avoidance (UA) 19 Long- vs. Short-Term Time Orientation (LTO) 22 Conclusions 25

Appendix A: Bibliography 27 Appendix B: URLs and Other Resources 28 Appendix C: Hofstede’s Dimensions of Culture Index Table 29 Acknowledgements 31

© Copyright 2001 AM+A. This document is confidential and proprietary. AM+A.CultDim.pdf

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Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design

Introduction

Introduction
Companies that want to do international business on the web should consider the impact of culture on the understanding and use of Web-based communication, content, and tools.

The Web enables global distribution of products and services through Internet Websites, intranets, and extranets. Professional analysts and designers generally agree that well-designed user interfaces improve the performance and appeal of the Web, helping to convert "tourists" or "browsers" to "residents" and "customers." The user-interface development process focuses attention on understanding users and acknowledging demographic diversity. But in a global economy, these differences may reflect world-wide cultures. Companies that want to do international business on the web should consider the impact of culture on the understanding and use of Web-based communication, content, and tools. This paper contributes to the study of this complex and challenging issue by analyzing some of the needs, wants, preferences, and expectations of different cultures through reference to a crosscultural theory developed by Geert Hofstede. A few simple questions illustrate the depth of the problem. Consider your favorite Website. How might this Website be understood and used in New York, Paris, London, Beijing, New Delhi, or Tokyo, assuming that adequate verbal translation were accomplished? Might something in its metaphors, mental model, navigation, interaction, or appearance confuse, or even offend and alienate, a user? Consider what year this is. Is it 2000? In some other counting systems, it is 4698, 5760, or 1420. Even to refer to the counting system of another culture might confuse or alienate people used to their own native system. Let us not forget that Hindu-Arabic numerals, which Western society now takes for granted, were once viewed as the work of the devil by Christian Europe, and educated people for hundreds of years blocked their introduction into European society. Whether people view imports from other cultures as delightful gifts or poisonous viruses is often a matter of socio-political context. Consider the order in which you prefer to find information. If you are planning a trip by train,...
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