Worldware Conference


About Us

Santa Clara, California: March 17-19, 2009

Cross-Cultural User-Interface Design
for Work, Home, Play, and On the Way

Aaron Marcus, President
Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc., (AM+A)
1196 Euclid Avenue, Suite 1F
Berkeley, CA 94708-1640, USA
Tel: +1-510-601-0994, Fax: +1-510-527-1994
Web: http: //

Aaron Marcus
Learning Objectives and Abstract

Learning Objectives
Participants will learn new terms and concepts to understand culture, one of several models of culture (Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation), and how these dimensions relate to the design of user-interface components (metaphors, mental models, navigation, interaction, and appearance). In addition we shall introduce additional dimensions that must be conducted in relation to culture (persuasion, trust, intelligence, cognition). Finally, we shall examine the practice and tradeoffs of several multi-national companies’ Web efforts.

User interfaces for desktop, Web, mobile, and vehicle platforms reach across culturally diverse user communities, sometimes within a single country/language group, and certainly across the globe. If user interfaces are to be usable, useful, and appealing to such a wide range of users, user-interface /user-experience developers must account for cultural aspects in globalizing/localizing products and services. In this tutorial, participants will learn practical principles and techniques that are immediately useful in terms of both analysis and design tasks. They will have an opportunity to put their understanding into practice through a series of pen-and-paper exercises.

Agenda for the Tutorial — March 19, 2009
Time (approx.)
Tutorial begins
Lecture 0: Introduction to Tutorial and Speaker
Lecture 1: Culture Dimensions and UI Design
Lecture 2: Applying Cultural Models to UI Design
Lecture 3: Culture and Corporate Web Design
11:15-11:30 Lecture 4: Best of Breed Culture Dimensions
Lecture 5: Advanced Mobile UI and Culture
Lecture 6: Web 2.0 UI Design and Culture
Tutorial ends

Detailed Description and Allocation of Time

Lecture 0: Introduction to instructor and tutorial (15 minutes)
This period will introduce the presenter(s) and to discuss how the techniques that will be discussed fit into the user-interface development process, including an introduction to globalization/localization issues. We’ll show several examples of questionable cross-cultural communication and discuss several cultural anthropological theories briefly. We’ll ask for participants’ own experiences in difficulties of communicating across cultural boundaries.

Lecture 1: Introduction to cultural models and examples from the Web (60 minutes)
Illustrated lectures will introduce each of five dimensions of culture: (power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term time orientation. For each dimension, we shall explain the characteristics and their potential impact of work, education, and family life, and show examples of Websites from different countries, but with the same subject matter that demonstrate indigenous cultural characteristics.

Lecture 2: Applying Cultural Models to UI Design (15 minutes)
Illustrated lecture will summarize the research of Dr. Pia Honold, Siemens Corporation, in using cultural models to predict how German and Chinese consumers gain information about mobile phone usage. This information impacts the design of documentation, online help, etc. Dr. Honold’s presentation shows how the results of her study generally fit the predictions, but offer some surprises, also. We shall also show portions of a case study of developing a phone for Chinese users and a portion of a video study of mobile phone users in four countries.

Lecture 3: Culture and Corporate Website Design (15 minutes)
We shall examine several major businesses and consumer Websites for multi-national corporations from several countries (USA: McDonald’s, Coke; Korea: Samsung; Germany: Siemens) and discuss the apparent tradeoffs of “universal” vs. localized solution for user-interface components per culture dimensions. A culture model was used to analyze variations in user-interface components of corporate global Website designs for approximately a dozen companies, both B2B and B2C, including Siemens, Peoplesoft,  McDonalds,  and Coca-Cola.

Lecture 4: Developing Best-of-Breed Culture Dimensions (15 minutes)
This lecture discusses a survey of 60 professional analysts of culture and user-interface design, which resulted in a composite set of 19 culture dimensions and the top five that emerged from the study to serve as a practical set for culture analysis of user interfaces.

Lecture 5: Mobile UI Design (Asian Technology Trends) and Culture (15 minutes)
This lecture focuses on recent developments of mobile products and services in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Some current trends are illustrated. Examples show the influence of different cultures on mobile products and services. The differences among Asian countries as well as differences from USA products and services are highlighted. We shall also briefly refer to a video-based ethnographic study of mobile phone users in four different countries.

Lecture 6: Web 2.0 and Culture Differences (15 minutes)
This lecture discusses characteristics of Web 2.0 sites and begins a discussion of differences among some Web 2.0 sites from USA, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.


Letter of Commendation
Visa's manager of corporate training provided this letter of commendation:

Aaron -
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you for the excellent job AM+A has done in preparing and delivering an effective, useful, and enjoyable Advanced User Interface Design class for Visa and Inovant staff.

The class participant comments were highly favorable, which leads me to believe that we achieved our goals of level-setting the User Interface Designers in the organization, raising the bar for consistent and usable interfaces, and providing a forum for our staff to network and meet with others who have complementary experiences to round-out design efforts.

I appreciate the time taken in the class to provide the class members with time to discuss and begin forming a center of excellence in user interface design. This group, under your guidance, coalesced in to a unified group that will be a critical component in project management within the Inovant and Visa organizations.

Thanks to you and your staff for using our comments and suggestions to customize the class agenda and contents to ensure that the materials were applicable to our circumstances, organized according to RUP best practices, and included sufficient hands-on experience for the group to expand their understanding of the concepts.

And finally, thank you for the candid comments regarding the class participants. This information will enable us to ensure that staff participants receive the support and assistance necessary in their future efforts.

As we move forward in institutionalizing the User Interface Center of Excellence, I look forward to your comments and feedback.

- Larry Aiken

Lecture Commendation
By David Asari, November 2008

On October 20, 2008, the AIGA San Francisco presented an evening with Aaron Marcus, Aaron Marcus and Associates.

Mr. Marcus gave a lively and stimulating presentation on the critical intersection of user-interface development and cultural differences in today's globally connected world. He cited many examples to illustrate the array of cultural aspects and dimensions that influence perception and the bane of unintended consequences when cultural assumptions are not deconstructed and contextualized.

The talk was punctuated by questions from the audience, which was made up of a range of design professionals, many of them directly working in the area of user-interface, as well as design students and professors. Everyone in attendance was fully engaged by Mr. Marcus' insights into cultural intelligence, and disarmed by his humor and dry wit. Mr. Marcus was extremely accessible during the course of the evening. And he was generous in sharing his knowledge, and followed up by personally emailing information, resources and PDFs on this topic to everyone who asked him that night.

Mr. Marcus' studio, Aaron Marcus and Associates (AM+A) is a pioneering user-interface design firm. He has lectured on cross-cultural design to international audiences across four continents. He was recognized for his contributions to the profession over the course of his 39-year career in information design and visualization, and named the 1997 AIGA Cross-cultural Design Fellow.

David Asari, AIGA San Francisco, Diversity Co-Chair, November 2008


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