Corporate Eye

Culture Counts: How to Create a Global User Interface

navigating globeThink of your favorite website. Once you have brought it to mind, think about which aspects of the site reflect your particular culture. Assuming proper translation, contemplate how the website would appear to a reader from New York? Brisbane? Tokyo? Berlin? New Delhi?

In recent years, the globe has seen a tremendous surge in Internet popularity accompanied by an increase in Internet access around the world. This has left corporations to solve the problem regarding how to create a website that reaches out to all cultures.

Very generally, culture can be divided into two categories: Individualism and collectivism. Individualism is associated with interpersonal independence – one is expected to look after only themselves and their immediate family. In contrast, collectivism is characterized by the existence of strong group ties and impenetrable group loyalty.

The importance of appealing to both of these cultural categories is increasing at a rapid rate. But how can a corporation create a user interface that is conducive to a global economy?

The first step is to understand the differences in how members of each cultural category experience the Internet. It is helpful to know what readers expect and appreciate when they visit a website.


When it comes to website design, those from an individualistic society are accustomed to and identify with images of people, while those from a collectivist culture are not. Instead, they identify with images of products, which are usually displayed grouped together.


Content is crucial to any site, but strong differences are present in this web desigh category as well. An individualistic reader will often be attracted to content with a strong voice that tolerates or even encourages extreme claims. Subdued tones that reference official slogans and minimize controversy are more appropriate for a reader from a collectivistic culture.  Often they will place their focus on wisdom and inner state of being.

Although not every corporation represents a global product, it is still important to be aware of cultural diversity when creating a corporate website.  Corporate websites can follow the following tips to remain culture-neutral:

  • Avoid slang and puns that are unique to only one culture.
  • Do not include images or design that overtly relate to a select culture.
  • Omit the words we and us.
  • Create content that includes both cultural preferences in tandem

Creating a website that captures the engagement of readers from both ends of the cultural spectrum will contribute to website success. If the reader is engaged, and even better, feels an emotional connection with the website, then trust is established.

Trust is the pillar of success of any corporate website, regardless of culture.



For more information about the user interface and culture:

Marcus, A. & Gould, E.W. (2000). Crosscurrents: Cultural dimensions and global web user interface design. Interactions, July & August.

For more information about culture-neutral web design and content:

Barr, C. et al. (2010). Yahoo style guide. St. Martin Press: New York.