Working-out Practical Recommendations and Decisions of WUI
Focusing on the specificity of the page structure and font decisions, it is interesting to notice the following difference: in English texts the so-called ragged right formatting is used, that means that the text is aligned to the left and the right edge is «torn». Paragraphs of text are separated by vertical indentation. In Russia, a traditional text layout is aligned to the column width and the separation of paragraphs is more commonly known as a «red line».
Developers of interface for multicultural e-resource must take into account the consequences of changing the standard date, time, currency, and other service information to local. For example, in the U.S.A. dates are traditionally displayed in the format YYYY/MM/DD or MM/DD/YYYY, while most European countries adopted representation DD/MM/YYYY. Thus, date format could cause confusion, especially when the number of months is less than 12 (12/04/2012 can mean both 12th of April and 4th of December).
There also should be used the encoding and fonts that allow the usage of local currency symbols (£, $, ¥, € and more specific, such as ). Using specific characters for different countries can be greatly facilitated by the use of CSS3: previously web designers had to use only the most common fonts, and labels with a rare signs had to be replaced with the image, but now it is possible to load the native fonts for web document.
Moreover, for sure, the days when users had to install the fonts themselves to properly use the e-resource are far ago. The use of modern web technologies such as CSS3 and HTML5, offers great opportunities for the practical implementation of the recommendations for the creation of ergonomic culture-oriented design.
In the continuation of the study the summary table of relations between numerical Hofstede’s metrics and exact ways to present the content as well as the need for a specific user interface elements will be formed. For cultural groups differentiation, Geert Horstrede’s dimensions of national culture were chosen, which are: Power Distance, Individualism versus collectivism, Masculinity versus femininity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long-term versus short-term orientation, Indulgence versus Restraint.
In the part of recommendations for web-based user interface organization, the research refers to educational materials of UC Santa Cruz «HCI Foundations: Individual Differences», which are based on the paper «Globalization of User-Interface Design for the Web», published in 1999 byAaron Marcus with his co-authors John Hermitage and Walker Frank, and also on its continuation «Cultural Dimensions and Global Web Design: What? So What? Now What?» (Marcus, 2008).
Practical recommendations were drown up in accordance with the following web-design characteristics chosen by Marcus, which are influenced by cultural specificity: Metaphors – notable for images used in site design; Mental models – models of thought train from real life, which are stimulated while using the site; Navigation – ways of moving inside the web pages or from one page to another; Interaction is the specifics of interaction between the user and the interface. Appearance is features of the site design, such as color scheme, forms, layout, sounds, video etc.
The major problems in using these data were that Marcus considered only the extreme parameters of Hofstede’s dimensions, or, in other words, his recommendations suited only target audiences with extremely high or extremely low parameters of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Furthermore, these recommendations were formulated when the Internet was only beginning to be used commonly and long before Web 2.0 appeared. For this reason, these recommendations have been noticeably worked over so as to bring them up-to-date. Then, the intermediate parameters of Hofstede’s dimensions recommendations have been added.
Among the targets of the research was to test the possibility of distinguishing certain groups within the target audience, which could be offered one interface variant with minimal discomfort while using the interface. To solve this problem, the data were clustered based on the basis of the k-means statistical method. This method is based on splitting the set of vector space elements into a predetermined number of clusters k.
Various divisions into clusters have been used with the number of clusters ≥3. We have found out that 3 is the optimal number of clusters when using the method “Intelligent Choice of the Number of Clusters in K-Means Clustering”, and a bigger number of clusters does not cause the better correspondence between the clusters and the real-life distribution. For instance, there appear borders between clusters at the levels of Hofstede’s dimensions characteristical for many countries. In other words, representatives of many nearly identical groups could see the different variants of the interface, which contradicts the logics.
While dividing every Hofstede’s dimension into three clusters, the users see the least differences in their interface.We conducted a survey in the multicultural anonymous online community boards.4chan.org/int/ where we polled 64 representatives of 17 countries in order to find out the specific features of the user interface in their countries. The poll was carried out in the form of delayed communication: a new thread was started in the community asking its users to participate in the poll, and the following questions were placed there, which were worded in informal English: 1. Where are you from? Were you born there? 2. What are the features of websites in your country? (color, text layout, menu structure, the ratio between images and text – whatever you find interesting); 3. Give a few examples of typical websites from your country or commonwealth.
the alphabetical list of countries whose representatives took part in the poll
Here is the alphabetical list of countries whose representatives took part in the poll: Argentina, Canada, England, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary Ireland, Norway, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA. It should be mentioned that the poll was carried out in a completely anonymous way, no information about the aims of the poll was provided, no information about the respondents (whether personal data or IP-address) was received and stored.
On the basis of the obtained data for each of the three intermediate levels received through the application of k-means clustering method in each of the six Hofstede’s dimensions, practical recommendations have been formulated on the design of the website interface, as well as on the specifics of the interfaces listed above.
approbation and verification of the produced recommendations
For further approbation and verification of the produced recommendations on developing the ergonomic design of culture-sensitive interfaces, an ASP.NET application was developed, which allows to poll various groups on the basis of the produced recommendations and receive feedback on them being true or false.
The application collects the data from the stored recommendation file (for each of the 3 levels of the 6 Hofstede’s culture dimensions), and constructs a 6-dimensional hypercube with 36 = 729 apexes, i.e. sets of recommendations for various culture groups. When learning about the nature of the poll, a respondent may choose their country from the given list, or type the values of the Hofstede’s parameters, if a respondent is polled after the testing.
the growth of dissatisfaction
Curve graphs have been drawn, reflecting the growth of dissatisfaction the farther from the cluster centroid the Hofstede’s dimension marks are. Also, a hypothesis has been formulated of the necessity of identifying the target group’s preferable values of Hofstede dimensions and forming the clusters on their basis in order to reduce the cost of the development, and of the necessity to move clusters against their statistically calculated positions, and to identify the levels of tolerable dissatisfaction, which does not demand changes to the design multicultural Internet communities.
The results of these surveys will allow to iteratively adjust the practical recommendations on the development of culture-sensitive interfaces. Besides, this allows to compare the received interface disagreement levels with the real percentage of the negative feedback, which will help verify the formulated hypothesis and allow to rely on the received data and deem them verified.
the practical principles of ergonomic design of e-resources
Thus, it can be said without prejudice that that the practical principles of ergonomic design of e-resources should be supported by approaches, developed in the field of semiotics, cultural studies, psychology, which identify rules of combination of the text, images, semantics, fonts, ways of emphasizing text components and its perception.
Moreover, one of the important components that need to be considered is specific ways of context perception in different cultures and socio-cultural approach to the creation of e-resources’ design, as well as specific of acting and work with information. This research will be the beginning of series of works devoted to the analysis of conformity of cultural specificity of target audience and the design features needed to ensure maximum comfort and ease of web user interface designed for this audience. The end result of the entire work will be the developmHofstede’s dimensions of estimating national identity are not precise and accurate enough; furthermore, they cannot be applied to identifying groups within the target audience of a website oriented for one country.
the necessity to develop a range of tests
Thus, the necessity to develop a range of tests, which will provide a more precise differentiation into culture groups according to Hofstede’s dimensions. As mentioned before, the evaluation can be made only by one or two Hofstede’s parameters which are found essential for a certain situation (depending on the specifics of the company’s activities and the target audience).
Methods of finding such parameters are yet to be developed and verified. The achieved results can be of use not only for web design firms and usability analysts, but for any company involved in e-commerce whose target group can be split into several culture groups, as well as for lecturers reading a course in Cross-cultural communication and Ergonomic user interface design. The achieved results deemed relevant, as it is essential nowadays when designing a site to take into account the cultural parameters of the target group. One of the reasons for this is a rapidly growing number of cross-border purchased (in Russia e-commerce grew 50% in 2012). ent of software environment that facilitates the development of sensitive to the culture interfaces.
Besides, now many companies have already come to understand the concept of Design Ladder, describing 4 stages of company’s maturity in the issues of usability and design: from “no design” when the preferences of the end user are not taken into account, to “design as strategy” when developing and updating the design becomes part of the company’s aims and plays an important part at every stage of development.
An important positive effect of applying the achieved results is that the given research will allow to clean up the conversion funnel of the buyer’s carts abandoned due to disagreeable interface. For further understanding the positive effect, one must bear in mind the following fact: in June 2012 ComScore polled 3000 American on-line buyers and found out that 57% of users do not complete the purchase as they visit the site only to see the goods, compare the prices, read the reviews. These people initially do not plan to purchase anything, however they are also very important as they show their interest for certain goods.