WebRef Update: Featured Article: Tread Carefully For International Design | 2 | WebReference

WebRef Update: Featured Article: Tread Carefully For International Design | 2

Tread Carefully For International Design

Another source that can enlighten you are these books:

Some excerpts from "Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands":

In Australia, the "thumbs-up" sign, which in the U.S. indicates "okay," is considered rude. In Brazil, the colors of the Brazilian flag are green and yellow; so people avoid wearing this combination in any dress. In China, you are expected to avoid making exaggerated gestures or using dramatic facial expressions. The Chinese do not generally use their hands when speaking, and become distracted by a speaker who does. Since it is impolite to disagree with someone in Indonesia, Indonesians rarely say "No." A clear way to indicate "No" is to suck in air through the teeth.

These gestures are clearly important in the context of human behavior, but even in Web design and content writing, they can play a significant role because both are means of symbolic expression. For instance, if you plan to have a funny animation either as editorial content or an ad, be careful about using facial expressions. A wink or a "thumbs-up" can backfire, too.

Meaning of color

Use of color is an equally hazardous proposition. Color as a metaphor can be misinterpreted. As an example, I would like to share a former colleague's reaction to a comment about certain colors. When, during a discussion unrelated to Web design, somebody suggested that black is "macabre" or "death-like" and that white is "pure," this colleague termed the notion racist.

Sensitivity to cultural differences in the perception of color, therefore, is important. When you are designing for an international audience, the meaning of colors can get complicated and the message you are trying to get across may be vague or even offensive, says Carolyn M. Bloomer, Ph.D., in the latest issue of Adobe magazine. In an article, " Peace, Ghosts, Innocence: What Color means around the World" this professor of cultural anthropology says the idea that human response to color is universal is confusing.

For instance, research has found that red is not always "hot" and blue is not always "cool." Add to this the intricacies of symbolic meanings that are culturally specific, and confusion intensifies. Take, for instance, white: does it imply purity and innocence, as in Judeo-Christian traditions and in Japan? Or does it signify death, mourning and ghosts, as in China?

Bloomer makes us think with these thorny questions, which every Web designer should ask when creating a Website for a global audience. Take the help of these resources:

Just as perception of color is largely subjective, so is the craft of designing Websites. However, designers of corporate and e-commerce sites should keep their audience's perceptions and cultural traditions in mind because they are potential customers. As a designer, you don't want to turn them off and lose a customer.

About the author:

Angshuman Das is a new-media professional (officially Software Engineer) at Desius, an e-commerce joint venture between RS Software of India and Hanover Direct of the United States. He designs Web sites, graphics and multimedia content. He received his Master's in Mass Communication degree from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, in 1997, and worked as a Web producer in the United States before returning to India, his native country. You can contact him at angshumand@rssoftware.co.in.

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This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2000 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.


Comments are welcome
Written by Angshuman Das and

Revised: Oct 19, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/new/global2.html