Monday, 19 July 2010

Cross-cultural implications for iMedia design

I love cross-cultural issues and I have rarely seen them alluded to when interactive media is taught. Aspects of design are so subtle but can have such an impact - we need to remember that the positive impact in one country and culture may not be so positive in another culture.

I came across cross-cultural aspects when teaching foreign students English - a lifetime ago. Then, once you've lived in a different culture, you get savvy about the small but significant differences in interpretation of colour, layout, gesture, association, tone, body language, and so on. Not so small are the differences in the use of humour between cultures. Humour is one of the last aspects of a language that a person masters in a second language. Irony, understatement, and satire may well underpin a lot of rather British humour, but many other cultures don’t relate to the information in the same way.

What does this all mean for web design? Well, a web site is global so can and does get traffic from many countries. Adriana Margineanu in Cross-culture accessibility: Web design that crosses cultures suggests you look at your web analytics and note if the site is getting a significant number of visitors from particular countries, then you need to look at the site with those countries in mind and perhaps offer versions that will tap into their cultural aspects better. In that way the site will have maximum impact.

Some salient examples of real cross-cultural disasters in PR terms are given by Kwintessential. Knowing these may help you win time and money to test out translations and visuals for web sites that your client demands has cross-cultural versions. It's too late once your site has a negative impact on your client’s brand. Are you covered for any retribution?

On a lighter note, if you reckon that my reference to the cultural differences of humour really can't have that many implications for other English-speaking countries like the US, Australia and most of Canada etc. do look at this page about Australian humour from the Australian Government. At least it explains quite a lot about their use of humour in various media (unfortunately not web sites) and makes you laugh! Have fun.