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Cultural influences in web design

Creating a web design that pleases everyone is an impossible goal to achieve. Putting up a website will have you pressured on the fact that you are about to try and satisfy the whole world. Cultural influences will lead a designer to unconsciously produce a website that represents a certain culture.

Colours, symbols and content may indirectly represent one’s culture in a web design. The designer may refuse to admit that he or she was stereotyping. However, cultural influences and web design are directly interrelated.

Dimensions of culture

A study conducted by Hofstede entitled “Dimensions of Culture”, identifies the cultural influences to web designs. He mentions specific terms that become the point of comparisons. Discussing these terms would bring us to a technical discussion, which may be very hard to condense. Different countries give emphasis to things differently. There are highly liberated cultures, while others are tight, reserved and conservative. Some are family oriented, while others are group focused. There are cultures that prioritize philosophies and value, while there are some who are in search for truth. These differences are vividly shown with the web design of these different countries.

Countries who give high regard to authority may produce a web design, which reflects the name and logos of the authoritative body. They would highlight the power of their leaders. On the other side, countries who value equality and less of a boss – subordinate relationship; may have web designs that reflect friendship and camaraderie.

Risk taking actions

There are certain cultures who cannot tolerate risk taking actions. While others believe that risk takers have higher chances in becoming successful in the future. This is reflected on the navigating toolbars, content and choices in a website design. Cultures that promote risk taking activities produce complex content, choices and navigating toolbars animation. Web designers belonging to cultures that prohibit risky activities will produce a very simple website layout and design.

An interesting citation on the said study was between the Asians as a very philosophical and value oriented culture, and Western countries who promote the search for truth. Asian culture considers patience as a very important value in life. Asians are fond of creating web designs that require patience in navigating the icons and other elements. Westerners on the other hand create designs that features direct realization of the goal, with its clean and functional layout.

The challange today

Standards for web design can be created and taught in formal schools, but these are not able to consider the cultural differences around the globe. Considering these cultural influences in web design as another factor in web creation, is a big challenge for the web masterminds to take. It requires a genius that would reconcile these huge differences. It would be just like professing world peace. This may be impossible as of now, but with the changes and innovations of today, this may be possible in the future. There will come a time that these rich cultures will meet at one point, in the World Wide Web. This major twist in the history of web design requires great effort. Culture as a treasure of every nation is well respected and valued, so a careful study is to be made in realizing this goal.

Adam Turner (Dynumo interactive studios)

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