Assessing The Consistency Of The Design Of Iranian Websites

Submitted By Deansong
Words: 4672
Pages: 19

Information Management and Business Review Vol. 4, No. 6, pp. 362-369, June 2012 (ISSN 2220-3796)

Assessing the Consistency of the Design of Iranian Websites with Cultural Characteristics of their Target Users: An Investigation of the Hofstede Model

Mousavi1, Datis Khajeheian2 University, Malaysia 2University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran *

Abstract: The influence of culture on the design of websites has been researched extensively. A group of researchers has implemented Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions as a proper framework to study this subject. The literature supports that cultural characteristics of the Hofstede model are significantly present in the design of websites. It also suggests that making a website compatible with the cultural characteristics of the target users facilitates effective interaction of the users with the websites. Building upon these observations, the present study has investigated the impact of Iranian culture on the design of Iranian university websites. We have measured the consistency of their design with the cultural characteristics of their target users and studied the possible improvements brought about by a culturally harmonious design. To this end, one sample t-test method is applied to compare the scores given by the end users for each cultural dimension, with the scores of the Hofstede model to measure the level of consistency. The results suggest that the design of Iranian university websites represents a more collectivistic and masculine culture with higher indices of power distance than what is specified in the Hofstede model and a change towards a more individualistic, elegant and informal design is necessary for the websites to improve their conformance to the cultural elements of Iranian users and improve their experience. To our knowledge, the present paper is novel in two aspects: firstly, it focuses on the case for Iran, which has not been extensively studied before; secondly, it makes a parallel study to measure the users’ preferences and compares it to the predictions made by the Hofstede model. Keywords: Website design, Cultural Dimensions, the Hofstede model, Iranian University Websites 1. Introduction Motivation: Technology and culture are known to have a mutual and delicate interaction, which has been researched extensively. World Wide Web as an example of modern technologies has influenced local cultures around the world by introducing concepts such as e-commerce, e learning, e marketing and cyber law. In return, various aspects of web technology are affected by local cultures. For instance, the acceptance and development of web services in various countries is subject to perceptions and expectations of users with different cultural backgrounds. Among different aspects of web technology, the interface design of websites, as the prime points of interaction with users, is crucially important for a successful and effective presence in the cyber space. A well-designed website can bring about trust, satisfaction and high return rate of users. Hence, such a website can meet the goals of this medium more effectively, for instance more effective knowledge sharing, better communication and more successful marketing. Achieving these outcomes is impossible without considering the role of culture in preferences and perceptions of the target end-users. In the recent years researchers have explored different elements of interface design in various cultures and found that cultural characteristics are meaningfully reflected in the design of websites in different countries (cf. Nantel, 2008; Van Iwaarden et al., 2004; Lodge, 2007; Callahan, 2006; Marcus, 2000; Alostath & Khalfan, 2007). They linked various design features such as colors, pictures, layout, information organization, and navigation with cultural characteristics of different countries and suggested that creating a compatible website with the cultural characteristics of the