A Framework for Cultural Localization of Websites and for Improving Their Commercial Utilization

A Framework for Cultural Localization of Websites and for Improving Their Commercial Utilization

Radim Cermak (University of Economics, Czech Republic) and Zdenek Smutny (University of Economics, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2727-5.ch013
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Cultural localization of websites is at present a relevant topic that has a potential to increase the commercial use of the websites of companies that operate or want to operate in multiple countries or regions. This chapter presents a basic survey of websites as culturally sensitive media. It is based on an extensive research of available literature on the subject and comprises more than 80 studies. These sources show that the study of the interconnectedness of culture and websites is examined primarily by using Hofstede's and Hall's cultural dimensions. The main part of the chapter is a detailed analysis of 14 seminal studies focusing on cultural localization of websites, and a subsequent aggregation of the individual conclusions arising from them. This is the basis on which a holistic Framework was created, connecting a total of more than 150 cultural features to the respective cultural dimensions. The proposed Framework can be used by web specialists for cultural localization of websites.
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With the development of computers, Internet, and information literacy, websites have become more important for companies, individuals, and public or governmental institutions. Websites today are among the most important information channels. The Internet also contributes to the development of globalization. Many companies today operate outside the country of their origin and become a part of the market with different cultural habits. This fact leads to a necessity for adapting the communication in order to avoid misunderstandings between cultures (Singh, 2012). In the context of this chapter, it means to modify websites in a way that would be useful and easy to understandable even for visitors from different countries or cultures.

The issue of website cultural localization started to be studied around the turn of the millennium. A predecessor of studies focusing on websites are studies examining the development of software for diverse cultures. For example, in the article (Nakakoji, 1996), the author considers the differences in cultures a challenge as well as a possibility for transforming this issue into an advantage by creating a user interface that would correspond to a given culture. If we focus on the area of website study, we can find at the beginning mainly efforts to determine whether the website is a culturally sensitive medium, and how this cultural sensitivity is manifested, see articles (Marcus & Gould, 2000; Marcus, 2003; Simon, 2001). Studies like (Wurtz, 2006; Cyr, Trevor-Smith, 2004; Singh & Baack, 2004) try to find the differences between websites in different countries and to generalize the findings. Other studies focused on user-friendliness and features that affect the ease of website use in different cultures (Li et al., 2009; Cyr, 2008; Daryanto et al., 2013). Another group of studies tried to create their own framework1, which would map website elements and properties on cultural features (Singh & Matsuo, 2004; Wurtz, 2006; Karacay-Aydin et al., 2010). Other studies aggregated the existing partial findings in order to create a similar framework for their own research, typically just for comparing websites from different countries (Yalcin et al., 2011; Reinecke & Bernstein, 2011; Sachau & Hutchinson, 2012). All these studies focused only on selected cultural dimensions.

There could be found many other studies of cultural differences which are directly or indirectly connected to the topic of websites and their role for organizations and users. There should at least be mentioned two interesting perspectives concerning the needs of companies in relation to the localization of websites and the possibility of using adaptive user interface. The first perspective is shown in the study (Shneor, 2012), which offers information on what influences the decision to create localized websites of a company in a foreign country. The second perspective is discussed in the study (Reinecke & Bernstein, 2013), which tested an adaptive user interface for users from Rwanda, Switzerland, Thailand and for multicultural users.

The main reasons for regarding websites as culturally sensitive media are well summarized in the article (Singh, Zhao, & Hu, 2005):

  • A website is visible to people across cultures,

  • The interactive nature of the website makes it an ideal medium for creating culturally sensitive dialogue,

  • Links and search options depend on the user and his or her motivation to browse the web,

  • Website templates can be adapted for different cultures,

  • Culturally congruent websites are better perceived by their users and users are able to use these websites better.

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