Designing Usable Localised Websites: Differences between Western and Arab Cultures

IBIMA Business Review

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Ali H. Al-Badi

Information Systems Department, SQU, Oman

Volume 2009(2009), Article ID 581669, IBIMA Business Review, 9-19 pages, DOI:

Received date : ; Accepted date : ; Published date : 12 August 2009

Abstract

This paper presents a case study from a western country (UK) and an Arab country (Oman) to extract the views of Web designers in both countries regarding web usability. The purpose is to determine the most important issues that should be considered when designing for a particular culture. To obtain a deeper and more detailed knowledge on how designers work in each country, it necessitated that the researchers get closer to the designers environment.  In such a way the researchers can enquire, observe and converse with them in an open-ended style of discussion. This can best be done through a case study in each of the two countries (Oman and UK). The specific aims of conducting these case studies in the two selected countries were to: 1) investigate the extent of the usage of the published usability guidelines and tools in the design of the user interface of a website; 2) Explore the differences and similarities in designing websites for each of the two cultures; 3) Discover whether they design for different cultures; if they do what considerations they take into account when designing for different cultures?  and 4) Investigate whether the designers in both countries consider using Cultural User Interface (CUI) profile or something similar to capture the target culture preferences and expectations, and whether it would fit into the way they normally do business. The data collection instrument consisted questionnaire for the designers and in many cases, this was followed with an interview or an email to the surveyed design companies to clarify their responses.  In addition to the questionnaire, the researchers made use of available documentation or archival data that could provide any help to the current research. The researchers also investigated the usability tools and guidelines used as well as other specific design tools which the company found helpful in designing usable websites.  The main outcome of this study was that the designers in both countries believed that although the users share similar preferences and perceptions about many website usability issues, however, they differ in the importance they give to certain usability elements such as the adherence to local language, culture and religious beliefs. The results of this study proved that one-size-for-all is not the right approach for a successful website. It highlighted the need to consider the customers’ cultural background and their real world experience.