Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Influence of Culture in Website Design and Users’ Perceptions: Three Systematic Reviews

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Influence of Culture in Website Design and Users’ Perceptions: Three Systematic Reviews

Article excerpt


Since the start of global commercialization of the web in the mid-nineties, companies, and users, often from very distinct cultures, have become connected- leading to innumerable business possibilities. However, this new scenario has also led to many communication challenges. Thus, a vast amount of research has addressed the importance and impacts of the localization of web design and online content. Studies have shown that culture acts as a moderating factor influencing both user perception and online experience and that the cultural profiles of target audiences have heavily influenced the development of online strategies of multinational companies and online firms [Baack &Singh 2007; Gevorgyan & Manucharova 2009]. Moreover, studies have shown that failing to address such cultural traits can cause cultural misinterpretations and inaccurate perceptions on a global scale [Singh et al., 2004; Singh et al., 2006]. Finally, they have shown that web design features are impermanent, constantly changing over time [Mushtaha &Troyer 2009]. Thus, their constant investigation is imperative. Vyncke and Brengman [2010] published an insightful review highlighting the effectiveness of cultural localization. However, considering the cultural representations in web design are in constant flux and have direct managerial implications, an updated, comprehensive, and systematic review of research exploring website cultural localization is overdue.

This paper presents such a thorough review, synthesizing findings from 90 previous studies in the field, ranging publications from 2000 until 2015. The authors expect that this article will provide students, researchers, managers and web designers with an up-to-date view of the relationship between culture and web design over the last fifteen years. This review also extends beyond the review of Vyncke and Brengman [2010] by not only discussing the effectiveness of cultural localization but also the depiction of cultural values and cultural markers on websites. The summary of such vast literature related to the topic will hopefully contribute to the understanding of current scientific findings of the field, influencing the development of future online strategies and identifying gaps which will extend the research agenda on culture and web design.

Literature addressing the cultural impact on web design is mainly categorized under a website design perspective [encompassing cultural values and markers] and the users' perceptions of it through the online experience. Thus, the review comprises the following themes:

a. The manifestation of cultural values in websites [33 studies]: Cultural values are defined as "desirable trans-situational goals, varying in importance, that serve as guiding principles in the life of a person or other social entity" [Schwartz 1994 p. 21].

b. The investigation of cultural markers in websites [27 studiesj; Cultural markers are web design features which are more predominant in one market than in others, thus providing a" look and feel" for websites of certain countries [Cyr & Trevor-Smith 2004; Evers & Day 1997].

c. Influence of culture on users' perceptions of online stimuli [30 studies]: Include works which investigated how users' perceptions of online stimuli differ by country, including the effectiveness of cultural localization.

The systematic review provided in this paper focuses on these three streams for a very clear reason: Cultural markers and cultural values represent concepts which are complementary and interrelated as they, respectively, characterize design and web content elements, thus comprising the overall design of sites. Their combination influences the entire appearance of any website, from a design and content standpoint. As such, they are responsible for creating a country-specific look for websites [Khashman & Large 2011; Okazaki & Rivas 2002].

Finally, in order to provide a holistic understanding of the effectiveness of such localization practices on the user experience, this review includes studies which have investigated the influence of culture on users' perceptions of online stimuli. …

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