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SI 520 Graphic Design Culture & Design Cultural Dimensions School of Information


• Introduction • The Depth of the Problem • New Issues for Web design • Hofstede’s Dimensions of Cultures • Power Distance • Individualism vs. Collectivism • Masculinity vs. Femininity • Uncertainty Avoidance • Long-term vs. Short-term Time Orientation • Conclusions • Acknowledgement Agenda


What is this presentation? This presentation focuses on cultural dimensions, as analyzed by Geert Hofstede in his study of cultures in organizations, and discusses how these elements affect the field of Web design. Why does it matter? The Web enables global distribution of products and services through Web sites, intranets, and extranets. Analysts agree that a well designed user interface for Web sites improve overall performance and appeal of the Web often boosting conversion rates and increasing ROI (Return on investment). While the Web design developmental process commonly focuses on understanding customer needs and acknowledging demographic diversity, in a global economy these differences may need to reflect world-wide cultures. Companies doing business on the web need to consider the impact of culture in the understanding and use of Web-based communications, user interface, content, and tools. Introduction


A few simple questions to illustrate the problem. Think about your favorite Web site. How might that Web site be understood and used in Chicago, Germany, London, Beijing, New Delhi, or Melbourne, assuming that adequate verbal translation has been accomplished? Might something in its metaphors, mental model, navigation, interaction, or appearance confuse, or even offend and alienate a customer? For example, consider what year this is. Is it 2007? In some parts of the world with different counting systems, the year is 4705, 5767, or 1427. In fact, referring to the counting system of another culture may confuse and alienate people used to their own native systems. Consider the Hindu-Arabic numerals, which Western civilization now takes for granted, was once viewed as foreign and satanic by educated people for hundreds years who blocked its introduction into European society. The Depth of the Problem


The Depth of the Problem Travel Example Consider travel within the context of the global economy and whether people view imports from other exotic cultures as delightful gifts or poisonous viruses is often a matter of socio-political context. In what order do you like to find Information? For example, if you’re planning a flight, do you want to see the schedule information first or would you prefer to read about the airline and assess its credibility? Different cultures look for different data to make decisions.


Jetblue.com: Branding & Sales Promotions China Airlines: Credibility & Schedule The Depth of the Problem - Travel Example


What issues? Most of our projects embody a complex interplay of customer, marketing, and engineering requirements which need to be resolved by sales, information architects, system architects, and visual designers. Our developmental process includes iterative steps of planning, research, analysis, design, evaluation, documentation, and training. However, as we carry out all of these tasks, we may want to consider our own cultural orientation as a context for understanding the preferred mental model(s) of other cultures. This may help us achieve more desirable “global” solutions or at least help determine to what extent localized, customized designs might be better than an “out-of-the-box” or universal solution. New Issues in Design


What about color? Cultures, even within given countries, are very different. Sacred colors in the Judeo-Christian West, e.g. red, blue, white, and gold are quite different from the Buddhist saffron yellow or Islamic green. In addition, Norwegian Web design may not be suitable for the warmer climate of Hollywood, USA, or Bollywood, India. In addition, these differences go deeper than appearance; they reflect strong cultural values. The question is: “How might these cultural differences be understood without falling into the trap of stereotyping other cultures?” New Issues in Design - Color Examples


Norwegian Travel Site Academy of Motion Pictures Bollywood Awards New Issues in Design - Color Examples


Who is Dr. Hofstede? Cultural theorist and Professor of psychology. From 1967 to 1973, while working at IBM as a psychologist, he conducted a comprehensive study of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He collected and analyzed data from over 100,000 individuals from forty countries. From these results, and later additions, Hofstede developed a model that identifies four primary dimensions to differentiate cultures. He later added a fifth dimension, Long-term Outlook. Although Hofstede's results are categorized by country, often there is more than one cultural group within that country. In these cases there may be significant deviation from the study's result. However, Dr. Geert Hofstede's dimensions analysis has and continues to assist businesses to better understand the intercultural differences within regions and between countries. "Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster." - Dr. Geert Hofstede Who is Dr. Geert Hofestede?


Hofstede’s 5 Dimensions He identified five dimensions and rated 53 countries on indices for each dimension, normalized to values of 0 - 100 (highest is 110). His five dimensions of culture are as follows: Power-Distance Collectivism vs. Individualism Femininity vs. Masculinity Uncertainty Avoidance Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation For each of Hofstede’s terms appears an assessments and example(s) for our industry. Dr. Geert Hofestede’ Cultural Dimensions


Power Distance PD refers to the extent to which less powerful members expect and accept unequal power distribution within a given culture or organization. Hofstede claims that high PD countries tend to have centralized political power and exhibit tall hierarchies in organizations with large differences in salary and status. Lower PD countries tend to view subordinates and supervisors as closer together and more interchangeable, with flatter hierarchies in organizations and less differences in salaries and status. Power Distance: PD


Influences on Web Design Access to information: Highly (high PD) vs. less-highly (low PD). Hierarchies in mental models: Deep vs. shallow. High PD focuses on expertise, authority, experts, certifications, degrees, official stamps, or logotypes: strong vs. weak. High PD: Importance of security and restrictions or barriers to access; explicitly enforced, frequent restrictions on users vs. Low PD - transparent, integrated, implicit freedom to roam. High PD: Social roles used to organize information, e.g. manager’s section obvious to all but sealed off from non-managers: frequent vs. infrequent access to information. The effects of Power Distance


Emphasis on students (not leaders), a stronger use of asymmetric layout, and photos of both genders. • The power of students as consumers and equals. Low Power Distance


• Emphasis on the official seal of the university, photographs of faculty or administration, and monumental buildings in which people play a small role. High Power Distance


Individualism vs. Collectivism Individualistic cultures value personal time, freedom, challenges, and such extrinsic motivators as material rewards at work. Collectivist cultures value training, physical conditions, skill, and intrinsic rewards of mastery. Individualism vs. Collectivism: IC


Influences on Design Motivation based on personal achievement; maximized for individualist cultures vs. underplayed (in favor of group achievement) for collective cultures. Images of success; demonstrated through materialism and consumerism vs. achievement of socio-political agendas. Prominence given to youth and action vs. aged, experience, wise leaders, and states of being. Importance given to individuals vs. products shown by themselves or in groups. Emphasis on change: What is new and unique vs. traditional and historic. Effects of IC


• High individualist value; emphasis on differentiating the individual from the group. • Emphasis on visitor(s), his/her goals, and possible actions . Example of Individualism


• Emphasis on products; lack of catered or personal touches. • Mass marketing; no mention of an individual’s specific needs. Example of Collectivism


Masculinity vs. Femininity Masculinity and femininity refer to gender roles, not physical characteristics. In masculine cultures, the traditional distinctions are strongly maintained, while feminine cultures tend to collapse the distinctions and overlap gender roles. For example: Both gender roles can exhibit modesty, tenderness, and a concern with both, quality of life and material success. Masculinity vs. Femininity: MAS


Country examples The following list shows some typical MAS index values, where high values implies a strongly masculine culture: 95 Japan 79 Austria 62 USA 53 Arab Countries 47 Israel 43 France 14 Netherlands 05 Sweden Example of MAS


Feminine cultures generally place emphasis on: Blurring gender roles. Mutual cooperation, exchange, and rational support (rather then mastery and winning). Utilization of visual aesthetics and appeals to unifying values. Example of Femininity


Masculine cultures generally place emphasis on: Work tasks, roles, and mastery, with quick results for limited tasks. Graphics, sound, and animation used for utilitarian purposes. Attention gained through games and competitions. Example of Masculine


Uncertainty Avoidance (UA) People vary in extent that they feel anxious or uncertain or unknown matters, as opposed to the more universal feeling of fear caused by known or understood threats. Cultures vary in their avoidance of uncertainty, creating different rituals and having different values regarding formality, punctuality, legal-religious-social requirements, and tolerance for ambiguity. In addition, cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to have higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, and accidental deaths, and high numbers of prisoners per capita. Business may be more formal and focused on tactical operations. By contrast, low UA cultures tend to have higher caffeine consumption, lower calorie intake, higher heart-disease death rates, and more chronic psychosis per capita. Business may be more informal and focused on long range outlook. Uncertainty Avoidance: UA


Uncertainty Avoidance (UA) Cultures with high uncertainty tend to be expressive; people talk with their hands, raise their voices, and show emotions. People seem active, emotional, even aggressive; shun ambiguous situations. By contrast, low UA cultures tend to be less expressive and less openly anxious; people behave quietly without showing aggression or strong emotions. Uncertainty Avoidance: UA


High UA cultures emphasize: Simplicity, with clear metaphors, limited choices, and restricted amounts of data. Attempts to reveal or forecast the results or implications of actions before customers act. Navigation elements clearly focused on preventing users from becoming lost. • Mental models and help systems that focus on reducing user errors Example of High Uncertainty Avoidance


Low UA Cultures emphasize: Complexity with maximal content and choices. Less control of navigation; for example, links might open new pages leading away from the original location. Coding of color, typography, and sound to maximize information. Example of Low Uncertainty Avoidance


Long-term vs. Short Term Time Orientation Long-Term Time Orientation seems to play an important role in Asian countries that have been influenced Confucian philosophy over many thousands of years. The conclusion was reached that Asian countries are oriented to the practice and search for virtuous behavior, while Western countries are oriented to belief and the search for truth. Asian countries for the most part share the following beliefs: • A stable society requires unequal relations. • The family is the prototype of all social organizations; consequently., older people (parents) have more authority than younger people. • Virtuous behavior in work means trying to acquire skills and education, working hard, and being frugal, patient, and persevering. Long-term vs. Short-term Time Orientation


Asian Countries Western Countries China (Rank 1) 29 USA (Rank 17) 80 Japan (Rank 4) 18 Sweden (Rank 22) Long-term vs. Short-term Time Orientation (LTO) Western countries, by contrast, are more likely to promote equal relationships, emphasize individualism, focus on treating others as you would like to be treated, and find fulfillment through self actualization. Of the 23 countries compared, the following examples illustrate the most extreme values: Long-term vs. Short-term Time Orientation


Siemens China (LTO = 1) High LTO Cultures emphasize: Content focused on practiced and practical value. Relationships as a source of information and credibility. Patience in achieving results and goals. Example of High Long-term Time Orientation


Siemens Deutschland (LTO = 31) Low LTO Cultures emphasize the contrary: Content focused on truth and certainty of beliefs. Rules as a source of information and credibility. Desire for immediate results and achievement of goals. Example of Low Long-term Time Orientation


Conclusion Hofstede notes that some cultural relativism is necessary; it is difficult to establish absolute (empirical) criteria for what is noble and what is disgusting. However, there is no escaping bias; all people develop cultural values based on their environment and in early training as children. Not everyone in society fits the cultural pattern precisely, however there is enough statistical regularity to identify trends and tendencies. These trends and tendencies should not be treated as defective or used to create negative stereotypes but recognized as different patterns, values, and thought. In multi-cultural world, it is necessary to cooperate to achieve practical goals without requiring that everyone think, act, and believe identically. Conclusion


Conclusion (cont.) We face many issues in regarding Interactive design for the Web. While we have explored a number of design differences through samples, more strategic questions remain: • Cross-cultural theory (ethnography) needs to become an accepted component of the design process along with usability testing. Only then will we see new developments change our current practices and the development of new tools. • We need to make it feasible to develop and disseminate multiple versions of client Web sites and applications in cost-effective manner that meet the needs of ALL users. Conclusion


Acknowledgement The Author acknowledges the work of Dr. Geert Hofstede Acknowledgement Additional Resources http://www.geert-hofstede.com/



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