User Interface Design
Thomas A. Plocher*, Chaya Garg*, Jacqueline Chestnut*** Honeywell Technology Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
** Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi
At Honeywell, we have embarked on an initiative to improve our Asian market share by attending more carefully to the needs and requirements of our product users in Asia. As the user interface design experts supporting the initiative, we are frequently asked questions like, "Why should user interfaces to our products be any different for Asians than for Americans? Why would one expect to find cultural differences in user interface preferences?". The short answer is to point out the dozen or so papers in the literature that directly compare Americans and Asians (usually Chinese) on their performance with and without some user interface feature that has been culturally adapted. But what is the theoretical foundation that allows one not only to integrate these rather scattered research results, but also to predict where cultural differences will be found in other cultures and products, and how they might be addressed through design? A good theoretical model relating cultural differences and user interface design is the most compelling answer to these questions.
This paper reviews our research into the theoretical connections between culture, user characteristics, and user interface design. As a result of this work, we have developed our own model relating these variables. This model will continue to evolve, as we gain practical experience with our products and their Asian users.
Culture is not only how individuals act, behave, and respond, but also the beliefs, values, norms, and ideologies that they share and use to justify their actions and behavior to themselves and others. Geertz's ( 1973) definition captures this dual aspect of culture. Geertz ( 1973, pg. 145) defines culture as the fabric of meaning in terms of which human beings interpret their experience and guide their action.