Thoughts for final project– Web Interface design (cross cultural?)

I had a hard time synthesizing all the concept and theories we came across throughout the semester. I am still trying to figure out the exact topic that I want to explore for my final project. But I think the problem-solving way of thinking is very useful. I asked myself: what do I really want to know? Lots of ideas came up to me and one of them is something I have been thinking about since long time ago, that is the cross cultural web interface design. New questions and new perspectives emerged when I thought about it through our class theories. I haven’t had any answer or argument for this topic but I think it is good to start with questions and observations.

In the class of last semester (Semiotics and Cognitive Technology), we had a class on interfaces and design principles. The articles written by Murray was very impressive to me. It talks about the cultural element in digital medium, “I argue for the advantage of thinking of digital artifices as parts of a single new medium, which is best understood specifically as the digital medium, the medium that is created by exploiting the representational power of the computer” (Murray, 2012.)  Although the web interface design is relatively new comparing to design of other media (books, videos, or a pencil), it does not only serve technical and practical functions, rather, it is more cultural/social/commercial oriented. There are some bullet points that I have for thinking through web design:

  • It is INTERACTION between Machine and Humans
  • NOT just for serving certain practical functions (Provide information);
    To better show their business orientation;
    Be inviting: making people feel comfortable


  1. Why should designers be aware of cultural differences when design web interfaces? — users get impression of the business when seeing the website and every one of us are cultural, symbolic species.)
  2. How to be inviting and how to show business orientation when cross cultures?
  3. To what degree, in reality, do designers aware of cultural differences? (Are designers locals?)
  4. How do users/interactors make sense of the interface?  — We are symbolic species and we make sense of the “symbols” (images, language, icons, or videos) intuitively and simultaneously.
  5. Do other cross cultural research can contribute to cross cultural web interface design?– cross cultural is something that has been studied for many years (longer than cross cultural interface design)

I’ve done some literature review about the mainstream cross cultural web interface design research. Before laying out the research, I’d like to show some examples:

1. U.S. version of Pizza Hut Website vs. Chinese version

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I found it very interesting because the design of the website correspond with its different business orientation in two countries. The Pizza Hut in China is framed as a place with nice environment and a good place for family or friends gathering. And it is not just pizza. Whereas in the U.S. Pizza Hut is more like a fast food.

2. McDonald

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Yes, Chinese people stop thinking about being healthy the minute they step into McDonalds.

3. KFC

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It’s almost striking for me seeing the difference in KFC. So the bar on the top of Chinese version website has: Balance Diet; Ordering Online; App Download; Company Responsibility; Join Us; News Center; Everyday Exercising; Children’s Land; Franchise; Contact Us. The bar on the top of U.S. site has ones only about food.

There are many research on web interface design. Besides fundamental principles of usability, there are some characteristics for cross cultural design: language translation; layout (banners, menu items, orientation…); symbols (icons, navigation elements); content; multimedia; color (color semiotics varies across cultures and impact consumer expectations)

Geert Hofstede has been doing cross cultural communication research and he found out that there are 5 dimensions of cross cultural web interface designs:

1.power distance (autocratic society vs. democratic)

2. collectivism vs. individualism

3. femininity vs. masculinity (Masculine cultures are competitive, assertive, materialistic; feminine cultures place more value on relationships and quality of life.)

4. Uncertainty avoidance (High uncertainty avoidance cultures are more emotional, and control changes with rules, laws and regulations. Low uncertainty avoidance cultures are more pragmatic, and have as few rules as possible.)

5. long vs. short-term orientation (Long-term oriented societies are oriented to the future, and are pragmatic, rewarding persistence and saving. Short-term oriented societies are oriented to the present and the past, rewarding reciprocity in social relations and the fulfilling of social obligations.)

I don’t know if only it happens for food business. For example, the Apple Inc. website in U.S. looks exactly the same with Apple website in other countries (only language differences.)