Cultural Considerations on Website Creations

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Summary

The study indicates how ESE can improve its website for better communication to users with varied cultures. In this regard, the study identified that ESE website has the issue lack of sufficient images, coloured background, customisation options, and online chat along with excessive texts. Thus, it is proposed to the management to conduct improvement on the mentioned areas.

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Introduction

Online web content has been a major aspect of communication in the modern day context, which has been observed to be extensively effective. The websites reaches to the people of variable cultures throughout the world. Thus, from the perspective of the website content writer, it is crucial to consider the multicultural and cross-cultural factors while communicating or providing information. In this regard, Hameed et.al. (2016) mentioned about some of the varied cultural factors, which are to be considered while communicating through web source to diverse people. These include differences in language, educational cultural differences, learning or understanding style, differences in local & global culture, social context, and reasoning pattern among others. Wurtz (2006) and Cyr et.al. (2005) also stated that during cross cultural communication through web environment, some of the other aspects are also to be considered, which are related to high context culture and low context culture. High context indicates people having greater connection with others for a longer period, while low context culture suggests people with many connections but for shorter duration (Wurtz (2006) and Cyr et.al).

Wurtz (2006) found that in high context culture, there is greater use of animation, while low context culture people prefer texts over animation in web communication. High context cultural people connect with images with collectivist characteristics. On the contrary, the low context cultural people interact with each other through individualistic attributes. The high context cultural people are attracted to products promoted through web content that depicts use by the individuals. On the other hand, low context cultural people are attracted by the lifestyle depicted. The high context people prefer process oriented websites that involves navigation and exploring opportunities, while low context people are observed to be drawn to goal-oriented websites. High context cultural people are attracted to websites, which has many menus and sidebars along with opening of new browser windows for detailed information. On the other hand, Wurtz (2006) opined that people of low context culture prefer less menu options and sidebars. In addition, they also prefer to gain information within the same windows browser page. Thus, it is crucial to consider how information is displayed in a web environment based on the cultural context of the viewers.

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Methodology

From the above discussion gathered from credible literature, it is apparent that website information and designing is decisive in effectively communicating with the viewers of distinctive and varied cultures. To further research on this issue, qualitative method has been employed, wherein, 3 cases of higher education websites are considered. These are evaluated through logical understanding and the support of secondary sources on how they communicate with Russian, Latin American, Italian, and British students. The three websites considered are of University of Maryland, University of Chicago, and Bucknell University. Based on these findings, the study critically evaluates the website of ESE. Besides, it is also an opportunity to evaluate 5 aspects, wherein, it does not match the requirements of the Russian, Latin American, and Italian students. To evaluate this aspect Hofstede’s framework along with Schneider’s culture model have been considered. In addition, the study also suggests modification in school website so as to make it more appealing in terms of functionalities and its look.

Findings

The three higher education websites, which are highly effective in communicating with Russian, Latin American, Italian, and British students includes, University of Maryland, University of Chicago, and Bucknell University. These university websites are not from the aforementioned nations; however these have significantly attracted students belonging to this cultural background. The reason for considering the websites of these universities is that they have the objectives to attract students throughout the world. The websites of these universities also reflect different elements based on multi-cultural and cross-cultural factors to effectively communicate with the students of Russia, Latin America, Italy, and Britain (Bucknell University, 2018; University of Chicago, 2018; University of Maryland, 2018).

From the website of University of Maryland (refer Appendix), it is identified that it is highly interactive and neatly designed. It is also observed that the website provides easy navigation to the users, which helps it to attract Russian, Latin American, Italian, and British students. Another crucial and notable aspect of this website is the auto-played videos with higher clarity, which helps in effectively communicating with young students of these nations (University of Maryland, 2018). Moreover, from the website of Bucknell University (refer Appendix), it is observed that it has personalisation or customisation for the user’s so that they can use the website as per their requirements. The students when first opens the website, they find the default impersonal homepage. The students can accordingly customise the entire website as per their requirements. When the students click on ‘start customising’ option, they attain the choice to turn on or off the various sections such as ‘our community’, and ‘featured news & events’ among others. Thus, if the specific students turn off any of the section, the website will not show that even after access the website from the same device.

However, the students can again customise and view those sections by turning it on. Thus, it significantly supports in communicating with the students of varied cultures, i.e. Russia, Latin America, Italy, and Britain. It is also observed that the website is beautifully designed with high-definition visual effects and easy navigations (Bucknell University, 2018). Furthermore, the website of University of Chicago (refer Appendix) reveals that for effectively communicating with the students of Russia, Latin America, Italy, and Britain among others, it has used high definition images to provide information instead of putting abundance of texts. However, these students are also involved in reading down the texts to some extent in the website to get information. Thus, the website has accordingly used highly concise texts with maximum information (University of Chicago, 2018).

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Analysis

In this regard, to identify the demands of the Brazilian (Latin American), Italian, Russian, and British (the United Kingdom) students, Hoftsede’ cultural dimensions along with Schneider’s culture model have been considered. In this regard, Hoftsede’ cultural dimensions suggests that the power distance in extremely high in Russia, and Brazil is relatively high, whereas, in Italy it is moderate, and the UK is low. Individualism is extremely high in Italy and the UK, while Brazil and Russia reflects of collectivism culture. Masculinity is higher in the UK and Italy, while in Brazil, it is moderate. On a similar note, individualism is lower in Russia. The uncertainty avoidance is extremely high in Russia, Brazil, and Italy, while in the UK it is relatively low. Russia and Italy reflects of higher long term orientation, while Brazil and the UK reflect moderate level. The indulgence level is higher in Brazil and the UK, but lower in Russia and Italy (refer figure 1) (Hofstede Insights, 2018).

Figure 1: Comparison of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Source: (Hofstede Insights, 2018)

Considering the Schneider’s Culture Model (refer figure 2), it is evaluated that the Latin America and Russian students have collaborative culture. This is due to the fact they think about others, seek for interaction, and reflect collectivism. They also focus on avoiding uncertainty along with emphasising upon actuality. The Italian student also avoids uncertainty and concentrates on reality, but it also reflected of individualism. The student is highly focused on his personal growth and development, thus he reflects of a culture to control others. The British student is also highly focused on individual development, but he also reflects of taking risks and considers every possibility for his growth. In addition, the British student also reflects on becoming successful compared to other students, thus he indicated of a competence culture (Maximini, 2015).

Figure 2: Schneider’s Culture Model

Schneider’s Culture Model

Source: (Maximini, 2015)

Thus, based on the demands of the students of these varied culture along with the available literature and findings from the three cases, the ESE institutional website can be criticised. It is analysed that there are 5 items, wherein, the website do not match the demands of these students. One of such aspects is the lack of customisation of the website for ensuring that the students can easily obtain the information that they do not want to view and others, which they demands to highlight. This is especially by the Italian student, who wants to control every aspect. The UK student also reflected similar needs, as he indicated of greater masculinity in his culture and expects to compete through focused information. Moreover, the website does not have sufficient images due to which it has not been able to attract all the four students. This is particular for the Russian and Brazilian students, who possess collaborative culture and expect to see the success of other students through images (Hofstede Insights, 2018; Maximini, 2015).

In addition, the website possesses relatively higher texts, which is mostly avoided by the students of high context culture. All the four students are moderately inclined towards high context culture. Thus, they do not prefer more texts, and in fact, they love more images. Furthermore, it can also be criticised that it does not involve effective communicative and interactive facilities such as online chat. The high context culture students, especially the Brazilian and Russian expect to communicate with the personnel of the organisation to gain further information. Additionally, it can also be critically analysed that the website significantly lack in attractive colours that would influence the students to use it. All the students of relatively high context culture love colourful backgrounds (Hofstede Insights, 2018; Maximini, 2015).

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Conclusions

From the overall discussion, it is apparent that the cultural factor needs to be effectively considered while designing a website. This is to ensure that the users are effectively influenced. It is also apparent that the University of Maryland, University of Chicago, and Bucknell University have been highly effective in communicating with the students of varied culture including the considered Russian, Latin American, Italian, and the British. Besides, considering the demands of these students, it is found that the ESE institutional website fails in 5 aspects. This includes lack of customisation, lack of sufficient images, relatively more texts, absence of interaction process such as online chat, and the lack of colourful background. Thus, the website could not communicate effectively with the students of varied cultures.

Recommendations

It has been determined that the identified issues of the ESE institutional website have restricted the university to effectively communicate with the students of diverse cultures. Hence, it is necessary to provide some recommendations to the ESE management. In this regard, it is recommended that the website should have more images and colourful background so that it attracts students. The images should be related to the infrastructure, resources, and the students. The images should be of high definition and clarity. It is also proposed that the website should have larger auto-playing videos, which depicts the success of the past students. It is also proposed to the management that they should also integrate an online chat option so that the students can interact with them. It also creates an opportunity to the management to convince the students for getting into the university. The texts used in the website should be more concise, which would help in providing more information in limited words. It is also proposed to the management to develop the website in such a way that the users can customise every section accordingly. This would enhance users’ convenience to access information.

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  1. Bucknell University, 2018. Home. Bucknell University. [Online] Available at: https://www.bucknell.edu/ [Accessed March 17, 2018].
  2. Cyr, D., et.al., 2005. Beyond trust: Web Site Design Preferences Across Cultures1. Journal of Global Information Management, Vol. 13, Iss. 4, pp.25-26.
  3. Hameed, N., et.al., 2016. Cultural Differences in E-Learning: Exploring New Dimensions. Cornell University Library, pp. 1-6.
  4. Hofstede Insights, 2018. Country Comparison. Home. [Online] Available at: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/brazil,italy,russia,the-uk/ [Accessed March 17, 2018].
  5. Maximini, D., 2015. Organizational Culture Models. Springer, pp. 9-25.
  6. University of Chicago, 2018. Home. University of Chicago. [Online] Available at: https://www.uchicago.edu/ [Accessed March 17, 2018].
  7. University of Maryland, 2018. Fearless Ideas Transform the Student Experience. University of Maryland. [Online] Available at: https://www.umd.edu/ [Accessed March 17, 2018].
  8. Würtz, E., 2005. Intercultural Communication On Web Sites: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Web Sites From High-Context Cultures and Low-Context Cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 11, Iss. 1, pp.274-299.
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