Global Web Design, a Constant Struggle to Present Information to the World

With 75% of the world’s Internet users being non-English speaking, the importance of bilingual websites is apparent. While the majority of websites are English-based, only 8% of the world’s population is English speaking. This trend has made nearly 80% of the world’s corporate websites to offer multiple-language portal versions of their websites. However, culture seems to be more of a barrier than language is (Marcus).

Cultural dimensions between various countries worldwide create a large barrier for web designers. The web enables global distribution of products and services; this user-interface development process most often draws its attention at understanding its users and acknowledging their diversity (Gould, Marcus). Companies that want to initiate international web business especially need to take the time to comprehend the cultural differences in the world when implementing web-based communication, content and tools.

This close attention should help achieve better global solutions in determining the local extend and customized designs that should be used with international websites. For example, sacred color in the Judeo-Christian West are different from Buddhist ones. These differences define strong cultural values and should be taken in deep consideration (Gould, Marcus).
This analysis is just the beginning – by studying patterns of thinking, feelings and actions (Marcus), the accessibility and impact of a website can be more influential. When Geert Hofstede published Cultures and Organizations, he identified five dimensions of culture: power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. feminity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term time orientation. Hofstede took great care to explain that cultural relativism is necessary in society. While all of the concepts he mentions create great arguments for the comprehension of cultural differences, a few stand out the most.
Power distance defines the extent that people accept power gaps in their society (Gould, Marcus).

For example, a culture’s concept of power distance is most often determined by their access to information, emphasis on social and moral order (i.e. nationalism, religion) and security importance. With individualism vs. collectivism, personal and group achievements are analyzed. For example, the display of materialism and consumerism can go against one’s cultural social-political agenda i.e. in Islam countries. The use of rhetoric, controversial speech often time causes controversy because of lack of understanding or against a country’s code of ethics and values. Web designers should also take great care in the imagery they place within their websites.

Within social standards comes the concept of masculinity vs. feminity. The degree in which a culture separates or does not separate traditional gender roles is a serious issue to think about when designing as well. For example, the distinctive roles that people play within their culture vary across the board. While in some countries men are typically the breadwinners that buy things for the home, in others, a matriarchal environment exists. This creates a barrier in which designers have to establish various design standards to use for international websites.

A variety of questions are left for us to ask: How rewarding should the interaction be? What will motivate different groups of people? How much conflict can people tolerate in content (Gould, Marcus)? While analysis is important with continuous success of international websites, understanding of various cultural remains just as important. With the rising influence of the Internet remaining a norm, web designers need to identify the trends at hand and implement these results in their implementation processes of web design.

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