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The enigma of web interfaces: Cultural aspects of web site design

Lim, Linda (2011) The enigma of web interfaces: Cultural aspects of web site design. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis investigates the role of cultural differences in the design and usability of web sites. Specific factors that affect localisation and internationalisation of web sites and user preferences are studied. The overarching research question is: Are there differences in usability of web sites for users from different cultures?

There are three areas of interest in this research: (i) Human Computer Interaction (HCI), (ii) Culture, and (iii) Localisation/Internationalisation. HCI focuses on the cultural factors affecting the usability of web sites. Culture is discussed in the context of HCI. Geographically disparate people use the Internet through web browsers. They may come from different cultural backgrounds and are likely to have different perceptions due to their cultural influences, which may influence their preferences for aspects of web interfaces. Challenges and opportunities regarding localisation and internationalisation of web sites are also examined. The methodology for this research facilitates the study of the impacts of culture on HCI in the context of the design of web sites and usability, specifically in terms of localisation and internationalisation.

An explorative pilot study of the materials, procedures and analysis techniques was undertaken. Due to the small number of participants in the pilot study, only limited statistical analyses are provided.

In the main study, 301 participants were divided into three almost equal groups, based on their preferred language (Australian English; Mandarin; International [primarily American] English). Each group responded to two of three virtual restaurant web site versions constructed for the experiment: (i) a localised version for Australian English speakers, (ii) a localised version for Mandarin speakers, and (iii) an internationalised version for speakers of other languages. Detailed statistical analyses of the quantitative data were compared with results from qualitative analyses of participants’ comments on experimental web site versions.

The results demonstrate that a web site that uses an International version of web design, text and web interface elements is more usable to International group participants. Participants who chose Australian English or Mandarin as their Preferred Language did not display significant preference for localised versions of the web site. The participants, being experienced and heavy users of the web, were perhaps expecting to use International English, since it has traditionally been the dominant web language.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Sudweeks, Fay and Turk, Andrew
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