Cross-Cultural Web Design (Summary)

Cross-Cultural Web Design

The internet nowadays is giving opportunities for companies to operate on an international scale.

While the easier and most cost-effective way to enter a market is through online marketing, a website is the most important feature to do so.

Creating a website for foreign markets can be tricky, and cultural differences play a huge role for future relationships with clients.

While some principles are primary, a lot of design features must be taken care of.


Characteristics of design that need attention in cultural context:

–          Language:

Not all languages are read from left to right; this is why the language affects the design of the whole page. Creating left-to-right and right-to-left templates is a must.

Also, different language means different size: a paragraph in one language may require more or less lines in another language.

Be aware of different formats used in numbers and measurements. The metric system is used in most parts of the world; in the USA and UK, the imperial system is used.

Not to forget how date formats, time and currency differ from one place to another.

–          Layout:

It’s the communication tool between the user and the system. It involves the placement of the design elements (menu items, banners…).

It has a big influence on how attractive the website is.

–          Content:

When translating the content of the website, it’s better to seek a native translator who will professionally translate the text. It’s better to avoid translating tools (such as Google translate). Even if it gives you the right dictionary translation, it may not give the exact translation used by local people.

–          Multimedia:

Content that may be appropriate in one part of the world may seem offensive in another.

Media must be carefully chosen to be used on the website.

Not to forget about low context vs. high context cultures. For high context cultures, it’s probably a good choice to burst the website with animations and images.

–          Color:

Color semiotic varies from one culture to another and may impact the expectations of the user. The red color for example, symbolizes power in western countries; in India, it symbolizes purity…


Helpful techniques:

–          In-country domains:

It is best to have separate country domains for each target market, which helps Google with the ranking on its country-specific search engines (;; etc.)

–          Unicode:

Unicode is a standard numeric representation of over 100,000 characters. It allows the use of characters from many different languages.

–          Google analytics:

Monitor your online presence with traffic reports, and know exactly how visitors worldwide interact with your website.


Finally, getting a positive first impression is a way to increase trust in a product or service.

Involving cultural factors in the design process increases the aesthetic value of a website, which becomes visually appealing.


Joanna Bou Fadel

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