11. The Cultural Context

This chapter deals with "creating or retrofitting" sites for different cultures. I'm not entirely sure what he's on about, but my sense is it's developing sites that sever specific cultures, such a nation (Korea); a region (Latin America), or people from a specific culture (Indians working in the USA).

EN: It is wise to hire an expert in the culture of the audience as a consultant ... or even to hire development firm more versed in the culture i n question rather than making some feckless attempt at trying to understand the culture from the random bits of information from second-hand sources.

11.1 Cultural Usability

Author defines a "culture" as being a target market of individuals who are similar to one another, yet different from other market segments, in terms of behavior, practice, conventions, language, values, beliefs, etc. That's pretty vague, but he then uses an example of differences among Chinese, Germans, French, and Arabs - so see my original definition above.

Worth noting that there can be significant differences, other than language differences, among different cultures. Some even impact usability (example, Chinese users perform tasks faster when presented with icons, whereas Americans do better with words).

The author suggests that the Web must adapt to serve various cultures. Various examples are given from meatspace research.

EN: I don't discount the importance of culture, but there has been some evidence that people of various cultures learn to use the Web's existing conventions - that they are accepting it as a common language - and would be interested in seeing more up to date research specific to this medium rather than old research from other media.

11.2 Culture-Specific Designs

There are examples of sites (Microsoft, AOL, Amazon, yahoo) that have been localized to different cultures, adapting their language and layout, even their metaphors, to be more accessible to the local community.

EN: Checking both Amazon and Microsoft sites today, the differences are less drastic: the sites have the same design and layout, slightly different content, probably based on the availability of products in a specific language. This may be evidence of the conversion to a universal standard that I mentioned before.

11.3 Designing for the Localized Web

When targeting a cultural community, Web designers should consider six categories of culture-specific elements.

EN: Much of the "explanation" the author provides is by isolated example, so it's not comprehensive, but the examples suggest the kinds of things to be considered.

11.3.1 Genre-Localized Attributes

11.3.2 Behaviors and Practices

11.3.3 Icons, Symbols, Pictorials, and Artifacts

11.3.4 Conventions and Formats

11.3.5 Intangible Values and Dimensions

There are no coherent examples here, but the author lists differences in things such as individualism, gender roles, racial equality, and so on are distinctly American and will not be understood (and may be offensive) in other cultures.

11.3.6 Preferred Content

In the Islamic world, a university Web site would need to indicate which gender may enroll in a specific class

A clothing site that serves the Australian market would need to consider their seasonal patterns (December is summer, July is winter)

In Britain, newspaper sites generally feature sports as the lead story, world events afterward.

EN: Again, I return to the statement I made at the onset: information about other cultures tends to be spotty and unreliable. Hire a consultant or a firm that's versed in the culture.