Cultural issues in designing interactive systems

Posted on February 1, 2006 | Tagged as: | 0 comments

Culture shapes the development of people’s values and beliefs and these attitudes have a direct influence on the interaction with technology. When talking about interactive systems and the persons utilizing them you must always have one thing in mind: they are more than just simple users, they are cultural affected people.

Based on the cultural dimensions as defined by Geert Hofstede, there are differences in the way people from different culture areas perceive and interact with technology. His findings have been successfully applied to advertising, management and organizational psychology.

When designing interactive systems the usability and ergonomy play an important role. They deal with the physical and cognitive issues involved. In the last years psychologists and usability experts have realized, that the emotional and motivational factors become more and more important and have a deep impact on the success of a design: Culturability – the merging of culture and usability

The World Wide Web claims for itself to be global and world wide but it remains localized due to design and cultural constraints. What becomes clear is that one medium does not equate with one interface. Instead, the interface design, interactivity, and content reflect a cultural indiviuality and understanding of the users. Different cultures look at different elements of interfaces and they emphasize different aspects of an interactive system. A western culture for example preferes simplicity while people from eastern countries can deal better with an “overloaded” (for western people) interface.

Interactive systems merge user, business, marketing and engineering requirements. All these factora make up the interface and information visualization. The development process includes iterative steps of planning, research, analysis, design, evaluation, documentation, and training. In each step it is important to consider cultural orientation and to understand the preferred structures and processes of other cultures. This attention would help to achieve more desirable systems or to determine to what extent localized, customized designs might be better than international or universal ones.

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