Monday, June 30, 2014

Designing Websites to Capture Global Customers

Designing and developing websites that reach out and spark the interest of multiple cultures is difficult. Because a website is the online “face” of an organization and regularly conducts e-commerce activities it is important to build sites that are both functional and effective. Research by Dr. Kirk St. Amant examines culture, website design and the international spread of online access for businesses that want to polish their global business designs. 

Cultures have an impact on how users frequent and interact with website elements. It is often beneficial to use local administers with key cultural knowledge to evaluate websites (Esselink, 2000). Providing materials, information, e-commerce, and page navigation through the eyes of the target culture can raise overall conversion rates and sales. 

According to World Internet Stats in 2012 there were approximately 2.4 billion Internet users with a market penetration of 34.3% (Internet Users in the World, 2012). Growth between 2000 and 2012 is 566% showing the market is growing at a significant rate. The large market highlights how businesses can have profound impact if they develop their systems appropriately.

The author discusses how symbols and pictures impact how viewers understand web sites. For example, electrical plugs may look different in some countries leading to a rejection of the product.  Different cultures also have diversified understandings of visual information that impact product impressions (Del Galdo, 1996). 

Cultures use different prototypes to understand information. In prototype theory customers scan information to find similarities to the ideal (prototype) image in their heads to determine how to understand and categorize information (Aitchison, 1994). When pictures and information are mentally categorized on a site it is better understood and acted on by customers. 

The author concludes that by using simple analysis mechanisms it is possible to improve the global appeal of websites. The report acknowledges that this is just a first step and additional research into visual perception and understanding issues will have a significant impact on sites in the future. Businesses can consider the following website features in their evaluations:

Menu Bar: Where, How many, Linked vs. Image

Buttons: Where, Shape, Text vs. Image

Color: Background and Foreground Color

Hyperlinks: How Many, Where, Visual Space, Design

Text: How Much, Size, Capitalization, Consistency, Formatting

Search Engine: Where, Color

Pictures: How Many, Where, Size, Resolution, Color Scheme, Pictures vs. Artistic Impressions, Human Pictures, Logos

Aitchison, J.  (1994). Bad birds and better birds: prototype theory. Language: introductory readings. Ed. Virginia P. Clark, Paul A. Eschholz and Alfred F. Rosa (4th ed). NY: St. Martins.

Del Galdo, E. (1996). Culture and design. International User Interfaces. NY: Wiley

Esselink, B. (2000) A practical guid to localization. PA: John Benjamins.

Internet Users in the World (2012). World Internet States. Retrieved June 30th, 2013 from

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