by: Hemant Karandikar

Ordinary people like us think that designers are a crazy lot and that designs happen somehow. Designers might think that users lack aesthetic sensibilities and need to be educated.

Amidst this great divide here comes a paper by Hofstede on implications of culture on web user interface design. As the web spreads more and more in a multi-cultural world such articles bring fresh perspectives for designers. Read on…

Cultural Dimensions and Global Web User-Interface Design
This review of cultural dimensions raises many issues about UI design, especially for the Web. We have explored a number of design differences through sample Websites but other, more strategic questions remain. In crafting Websites and Web applications, the questions can be narrow or broad:
• How formal or rewarding should interaction be?
• What will motivate different groups of people? Money? Fame? Honor? Achievement?
• How much conflict can people tolerate in content or style of argumentation?
• Should sincerity, harmony, or honesty be used to make appeals?
• What role exists for personal opinion vs. group opinion?
• How well are ambiguity and uncertainty avoidance received?
• Will shame or guilt constrain negative behavior?
• What role should community values play in individualist vs collectivist cultures?

The paper illustrates above points through serveral examples. It is worth your time!

My take?
-web is usually explored in personal space (there are some examples of community use). That means social / cultural drivers have lower influence than expected.
-The “offering” (is it information, service, entertainment…..?) and its place in the context of individual’s belief systems (Culture or values), life-goals etc. exert larger influences on the web behavior. So culture is just one dimension
-Culture dimension can be used to lay down ‘dont”s or “avoid’ guidelines.
-Referring to the websites illustrating various design themes I feel that the designs are driven by the bias or stereotypes associated with those cultures or individual designer’s preferences.

I feel that threre is no alternative to a rigorous process of target audience / offering / value definition leading to a clearly articulated positioning and faithfully executed design

Phew! But it is important.

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