What’s Your Website Culture?

First of all, I am so so terribly sorry that I missed an entry yesterday. I doubt I’m getting any unknown readers here though, so I shall refrain from any explanation. I will try to make up for lost time by posting 2 entries today. Please forgive me for a lack of quality though! Mood is a very important factor in writing, I feel, and it will take a long while for me to pick up my mood back.

Anyway, to the point at hand. Yesterday’s Logging Online entry is about websites and culture! Think they are unrelated? Well, it will astound you to know that businesses, when creating website, do take culture into account. What I mainly talk about here is national culture.

1. Feedback Forms

Have you taken a look at feedback forms on websites, especially company websites? Direct and indirect cultures will have different formats when it comes to feedback forms, in terms of:

Greetings. Indirect cultures such as Japan would use a tone of requesting feedback, “Please tell us how may we help you?” while direct cultures such as Denmark would simply say “have a comment you wish to give? Do it here!”

Number of Form Fields. Indirect cultures will have fewer form fields than direct cultures. For indirect cultures, they believe that comments cannot be clearly divided into distinct sections. Feedback is feedback, no need to classify it. On the other hand, direct cultured websites have sections for food & nutrition, HR, sponsorship etcetera.

Personal/Contact Information Required. Indirect cultures make it optional to provide contact information but for direct cultures, contact information like name and email address are usually compulsory.

2. Non-Verbal Communication

High-context (indirect) cultures love body language, but how are gestures portrayed on the internet? Well it seems we Asians have found that out. Imagery and animated effects replace non-verbal social cues of real-life conversations to capture user engagement. In the same vein, almost 9 out of 10 Asians have been found to like sound effects as well.

3. Thought Patterns

Now this is a discovery I find most interesting. High-context websites favour subtle or obscure guidance in the form of many sidebars and menus, and when you click on a hyperlink, they open new pages in new browser windows or tabs. On the other hand, low-context cultures have a restricted number of new browser windows (they prefer the original window or tab loading to the new page) as well as apparent and specific guidance.

4. Time Perspectives

A short explanation of time perspectives when it comes to cultures. Cultures may be monochronic — meaning they see time as a linear pattern and are very conscious about wasting time — or polychronic — meaning they see time as cyclical and feel that time is an expendable and flexible resources. Time perspectives are related to thought patterns.

How you see time perspectives on a website is by gauging its navigation and transparency. Is its information efficient and comprehensible, and you can get what you want by making only a few clicks? This is contingent on the designer’s expectations, whether he relies on the user’s patience and that the user will explore the site to seek information.

Once again, many apologies on a half-hearted blog entry. However, I hope this is informative nonetheless and the next time you go web browsing, do take a peek at the websites of different countries and continents and try playing around with them to see if their layouts and arrangements are intuitive for you!

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