// by Colin
Tips and resources for culture-concious web design
It all boils down to cultural differences that shape how people respond to certain colours, compositions, and other visual stimuli. When designing a website in Ireland for an overseas client or customer base, it is crucial to understand those differences and develop a sitemap accordingly.
Using the Hofstede Model to Understand Cultural Differences
Consulting firm Hofstede Insights provide a framework for comparing the differences between cultures. This can be a useful resource for digital agencies interested in developing websites for international clients/audiences.
The Hofstede Model uses the following dimensions to measure cultural differences:
- Power Distance
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Long Term Orientation
More on their definitions here.
When it comes to web design, some companies will only need to create one or two international websites tailored to the needs of users in that country. Others will use a localised template to prevent their brand message from getting diluted when they expand into new markets.
Web design in Ireland vs Web design in Spain
Take German retailer Lidl for example. They operate in 28 European countries, many of which have conflicting cultural interests. To keep their brand message intact, they use a straightforward landing page template that includes a hero image, standard horizontal menu, and featured categories.
A glance at their Irish Website and Spanish pages can tell you quite a bit about what’s important to their customers in those countries.
Beef coupons or a new jumper?
On the Irish website design, Lidl’s Deluxe range (speciality foods at slightly higher price points) is highlighted. So are Irish Beef coupons, local sports sponsorship, Christmas desserts, and a sale on branded homewares.
On the Spanish landing page, the hero image depicts Lidl’s ‘Bio’ food catalogue. Their clothing range takes centre stage throughout the homepage; food offers are less prominent and a recipe blog replaces the information section of Lidl.ie.
Lidl do not consistently promote groceries—which make up the majority of their product line—across all of their European landing pages. Indeed, food is inextricably linked to culture, but so is someone’s tendency to purchase clothing from the middle aisle, or look for recipe suggestions instead of information on a community initiative.
So, what’s the takeaway?
– Do your homework
Tools like the Hofstede Model are a valuable resource for researching and comparing cultural differences between countries. But don’t stop there. Find out as much as you can from your client, or by comparing the elements of a popular French bookseller’s website, for example, against that of an Irish Website Design.
– Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder
Culture can heavily influence what someone finds attractive or eye-catching. While it’s important to adhere to the principles of good UI design, bear in mind that user preferences can vary from country to country and you may need to make changes based on those preferences.
– Look to the locals
Local knowledge is invaluable when it comes to designing for cultural differences. Try to find a middle point between what you believe is best and what people with boots on the ground consider relevant or favourable.
– Get Feedback
Get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Test what you have and adapt accordingly. Navigating web design for cultural differences can be tricky, but only your customers, or your client’s customers, can tell you what works best for them at the end of the day.