Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Website Usability and Cultural Dimensions in Malaysian and Australian Universities

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Website Usability and Cultural Dimensions in Malaysian and Australian Universities

Article excerpt

Abstract

The extent to which web sites in Malaysian and Australian universities comply with usability guidelines of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services was analysed. In order to discover the reasons some websites comply with more guidelines on certain features than others, cultural dimensions in relation to usability of each country were also analysed. Content analysis was employed to measure the usability compliance. Twenty-nine guidelines were selected and twenty university web sites from each country were randomly selected. The findings showed that the trend of standardization was emerging for language and organization category. However, there was also a clear evidence of the need for website designers to consider the impact of local culture as some cultural reflections in terms of high/low context orientation were noted. In terms of culture, unexpectedly, Australian university websites depicted a higher uncertainty avoidance index. This study will be an addition to web design literature and facilitate universities and individuals to develop effective strategies to elevate the image of universities in the global context. Future studies should examine other cultural dimensions such as collectivism versus individualism and power distance. Future studies may also use interview method to gain an in-depth analysis of factors which influence the cultural projection in university websites.

Keywords: university, websites, usability, compliance, cultural dimension

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

As the web is a primary interface between the organisation and its clients and stakeholders, it is high time to ascertain the importance of web design elements to be included in a website. However, a large number of software products or systems with poor usability still exist (Goransson, 2003). Some studies discovered the users' frustration of the website experience because of the poor performance. Elliot & Fowell (2000) and Lohse & Spiller (1998) noted customers' frustration with the quality of the websites. Elliot and Fowell (2000) further ascertained that poor attributes in responsiveness of customer service, ease of site navigation, simplicity of check-out process, security and personal information contributed to the frustration. In the domain of higher education, little is known about the use of the Web (Poock & Lefond, 2003).

Moreover, the cultural dimensions are applied to the selected usability guidelines to hypothesize which guidelines will be favored by each culture. Hofstede's (1980) cultural dimension was applied; Uncertainty Avoidance: "intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity (Hofstede, 200, p. 401). Hall's (1976) low/high context culture (high context culture convey message in a long-winding and lengthy explanation while low context is the opposite) was also utilized. Australia ranks low in uncertainty avoidance, while Malaysia ranks high in uncertainty avoidance. Hence, Malaysian university websites should employ sites with rules and regulations to ensure that uncertainty level is decreased among users. Hall's (1976) low/high context culture indicates that high context culture convey message in a long-winding and lengthy explanation while low context is the opposite. Hall (1976) divides the context into two; the Eastern and Western. The former embraces the high context realms while the latter the low context's.

On the whole, the aim of the study is twofold; to identify variances in usability guideline implementation of university web sites in Malaysian and Australian university websites and to analyse cultural causes for the differentiation of usability guidelines. A content analysis is conducted to ascertain the level of usability in both Malaysian and Australian university websites and the cultural dimension as well. The findings of this paper will be an addition to web design literature and facilitate universities and individuals to develop effective strategies to elevate the image of universities in a global context. …

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