Is your interface design culturally-aware?

The web has become the primary means of massively disseminating information to the general public (news, photos, videos, music, etc.) as well as information to targeted audiences about governments, companies, products, services, etc.

Websites that convey informational content integrating text, photos, video, and audio, have their pages inherently loaded with cultural markers, often unknowingly inscribed by the designers of web interaction flows and interfaces.

This phenomenon can be easily perceived when browsing web pages from Asian, Middle East, and African countries. Besides obviously the language, page layout and interactions are often quite different from what we are used to, and take as an internal reference of how a webpage should look like (layout, spacing, color palette, font families, images,  videos, etc.).

Considering the fact that information is distributed on an international scale through web interfaces virtually to all domains/industries – education/MOOC, banking/finance, medical-hospital, business/e-Commerce), it is essential to be aware of the cultural dimension embedded in the webpages to optimize/maximize the effectiveness of the communication process and minimize the burden of cognitive and cultural adaptation, on the fly, for people viewing the pages.

The objectives of the study were: 1) to identify cultural markers present on the web interfaces, 2) to propose a multilevel taxonomy to structure and categorize the markers and 3) to propose a comprehensive methodology to enculturate website pages from one culture to another culture or, on the contrary, to minimize the cultural markers specific to a culture, making the pages more culturally neutral (internationalization).

To this end, a review of the scientific literature was performed, a framework developed to identify and categorize the identified cultural markers, correlating them to the cultural dimensions proposed by Hofstede and Globe Project. The markers were regrouped and categorized forming a multilevel taxonomy: verbal, visual (people, objects, etc.), contextual (clothing, artifacts, landscapes, animals, vegetation), behavioral (communicational interaction protocols used).


A comprehensive methodology for the enculturation (or internationalization) of web pages was developed and the concept was tested in a cultural content adaptation project of a web-distributed Intelligent Tutoring System developed in Quebec (Canada) adapted to Brazil-Paraiba (northeastern Brazilian culture).

The proposed enculturation methodology (or minimization of cultural markers) takes into account international ISO technical standards and helps, through a detailed sequence of steps, the multi-professional web content design and content production teams, to become culturally aware and to control the level of cultural markers present in the final product.


Nombre Adscripcion Procedencia
Olavo Antonio Saraiva Mendes Ph.D. Candidate (Programme d'Informatique Cognitive / UQAM) & Departamento de Mídias Digitais / UFPB (João Pessoa, BP, Brazil) Brazil
Jacqueline Bourdeau LICEF/ TÉLUq (Montréal, Canada) Canada
Roger Nkambou Département d'Informatique / UQAM (Montréal, Canada) Canada