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The influence of cultural and aesthetic factors on trust in relation to local Internet Shopping site - report

 

1. Introduction

1.1 Choice of topic

 

The advance of technology has enabled businesses to communicate and trade around the world and mass produced products also enabled multinational companies to compete in terms of price and quality with local products.

Marketing professionals have always been aware of how communication should work in local sectors using traditional mediums (one-way channel), as evidence by the amount of marketing communication books which are available.

 

Culture has also been considered as important by marketing professionals; this is a well understood factor and has often been used effectively. However this has been limited to traditional medium such as posters and TV adverts.

 

There is no doubt that the birth of the Internet has created many opportunities but it also poses a great many difficulties.  One such difficulty is how marketing communications on Internet should work as the internet has unique characteristics where it is private, personal and interactive yet at the same time is global and passive. For example, having different contents on a local website in certain languages than the other version of the site might actually have negative effects on users from different language groups, partly because all sites are equally assessable and they would be able to see the difference and feel as if they are being treated differently.  This is where traditional marketing theories do not facilitate.

 

Gaining trust is the other great difficulty in carrying out business on the Internet as ‘real’ face to face interaction is not possible at present. Much research was done on how to gain trust on the business side such as Lanford’s (2004) study (where it will be presented later in this report), but many fail to include how presentation of the site might affect trust, i.e. how to include culture and aesthetics factor as part of the equation on gaining trust.

 

This dissertation is design to further explore these issues by combining theories from different fields with the aim of generating guidelines on how to create a trustworthy site. This dissertation will start by examining the background theories of globalization and local cultures as a whole from a sociological perspective, especially on the topic of globalization and its affects on local culture, where in fact it can be a threat as well as providing opportunities to local cultures. It will then focus on how culture affects individual psychological changes.

 

The second part of this discussion will focus on trust, firstly by detailing  how trust is used as a tool for decision making and how culture and aesthetic might affect this decision making process.  A small scale experiment will be carried out as a preliminary research to explore these trust and aesthetic theories. The experiment is conducted on eBay where two types of presentation structure will be used, same product, one with better “design” and the other with just a plain, simple item description, both will appear as new sellers on the auction site.

 

The final part of this research was a comparative study on two successful local Internet shopping websites in Hong Kong, using a checklist as the measurement too where it was compiled as a result of the literature review. It aims to discover whether culture and aesthetics are used for building trust in their trust promoting campaign.

 

1.2 Definition of Internet shopping

It may be questioned why the term ‘e-commerce’ does not have greater prominence in this dissertation. This is because e-commerce is a very wide concept relating to using the Internet to carry out business better and faster - according to a definition by businesstown(2003). And although it has often been regarded as retail business, in fact, E-commerce can be divided into the following.

Fig. 1 Different divisions of E-commerce

·          E-tailing or "virtual storefronts" on Web sites with online catalogs, sometimes gathered into a "virtual mall"

·          The gathering and use of demographic data through Web contacts

·          Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the business-to-business exchange of data

·          E-mail and fax and their use as media for reaching prospects and established customers (for example, with newsletters)

·          Business-to-business buying and selling

·          The security of business transactions 

 

Source: Ketel and Nelson (2003)

 

It might seem as if the term “e-Tailing” would probably be a more professional term to use in this dissertation.  However, “Internet Shopping” was chosen instead as it is sensible to believe this term would provide readers with a better understanding of the idea because they would already have some experience in purchasing from the Internet.

The term Internet shopping already gives the impression of goods being sold from business to consumer (B2C), such as the retail business Amazon.com, but B2C does include services such as online banking (e.g.hsbc.co.uk), travel services (e.g. thomascook.com), and online auctions (e.g. eBay.com). Focusing on B2C, one of its main features is that it can be a global business. However, companies are finding it difficult to gain global business because of all the barriers that needed to be overcome, and one of these barriers is cultural differences and local competition. To overcome this one of the strategies employed by these companies is to localise their shopping site. Some have managed to achieve this successfully but many have not as is evident from the burst of dotcoms.

Nevertheless, local internet shopping (B2C) sites can be categorised as follows:

A.      Local company trying to sell locally ( e.g. A UK company trying to sell in the UK)

B.      An international company trying to enter into a different market zone. (e.g.  A UK company marketing in China)


2. Culture

There is no doubt that culture is important, the following section aims to investigate and understand the theories of culture by identifying the difference between global and local culture and how it was affected by globalization, such as the rise of popular culture and global consumerism. The concept of culture identity will also be defined.

2.1 The rise and fall of Global Culture and Local Culture

There is no doubt that globalisation has produced flows of people and products internationally and domestically.  This is because the prices of mass produced products have fallen as well as the advances in transportation allowing international companies to complete with local products.  However, history has shown that this flow also affects cultures.

Recently, globalization has become the main enemy for academics, journalists, and political activists who loathe what they see as a trend toward cultural uniformity - according to Pells (2002), where in the same article he mentions that many see American consumer culture as being “the” global culture and Hollywood, McDonald's and Disneyland are eradicating regional and local eccentricities; many see any non-Euro-American culture as being a local culture. However I would argue that these so called non-Euro-American cultures such as Bollywood and other Asian films (e.g. The Hong Kong action film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are equally powerful. Therefore such an observation is insufficient to explain the nature of local culture. But before defining what culture really is, it is necessary to understand globalization.

Held & McGrew (2002) stated that “Globalization denotes the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of interregional flows and patterns of social interactions. It refers to a shift of transformation in the scale of human social organization that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relation across the world’s major regions and continents” 

Whereas Robertson (1992) referred to globalization as “the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole”. Taken from the idea of this statement, it would be sensible to view each group of people’s consciousness (i.e. ways of doing and ways of thinking) as culture and it does not mean that globalization necessarily needs to take place or take precedence over local, national or regional orders of social life.   The timing of social change also plays a major role in global cultural migration. This idea seems to be supported by Per Gjerde(2004) where he said in an interview with McNulty(2004), “Psychologists often speak about the power of culture as an independent variable, but they fail to pay attention to the power structures that frame culture,”.  He believed that the troubles emanated from how researchers use nations as proxies for cultural units, therefore giving the impression that cultures are only linked to national boundaries and geographical areas, like ‘East’ and ‘West’; ‘American individualism’ and ‘Asian collectivism.’ This means that people are often being “grouped” purely on their location or origin.

I have similar findings: whonose (2004) is an Online Journal (blog) English writer who is a Christian, born and bread in the UK but who is very fond of and has vast knowledge of East Asian culture.  Quoting from an un-structured interview between us, he said I'd say I am an established Englishman that isn't happy with the traditions imposed on being an Englishman. I found nothing to respect or be proud of in my own culture, so I embraced others. I found heaps to restore my faith in humans in Eastern culture so that’s where my focus lies”, other evidence of this type of reverse culture flows and un-structure grouping is shown by how ‘feng-shui’ and ‘yoga are increasing its influences in the west.

Interestingly whonose’s (2004) idea of living was only made possible partly by the advances of technology, where such an idea would be unheard of in previous generations and this idea of how technology helped the push of culture migration is also supported by Rothkop (1997) where he noted it is the first time in history that virtually every individual at every level of society can sense the impact of international changes. They can see and hear it in their media, taste it in their food, and sense it in the products that they buy.

This statement is confirmed by a survey of the ‘Information Generation’ (iGeneration, age 18-30) published by The Times (2004). This survey not only showed how their attitudes on everyday issues differs greatly to that of older generations and for the first time it also shows their perspective on other factors such as culture and the trustworthiness of different races. This survey has symbolised that culture is not confined in geographical areas as the new ‘iGeneration’ are more willing to accept the non-dominate culture than the older generations even though they are all located in the same area. As one comment in the survey said:

“Race has never really been an issue. A lot of my friends are mixed race. At school there were some people who were small minded but you just ignored that. I think the younger generation in general is more tolerant because there is such a mix of races in music, film and television. Because there is much more exposure, it’s become more mainstream in the cultures so the younger generation accept it a lot more.”

The effects of cultural migration experience has indeed become very apparent in the UK recently as shown by the joint declaration issued by the prime ministers of India and Britain which stated that Indian culture is becoming an important component of multiethnic Britain -The Times of India (20th SEPTEMBER, 2004).


2.2 Culture identity

Everyone has a culture identity because it is nature that human can not survive as an individual. Some people may be unclear their identity because the effects of culture immigration or forces adoption of second culture, but nevertheless, in general culture identity can be understand as:    

“The culture of a nation comprises many aspects. It is shaped and moulded by the background of its people, their languages and beliefs. It includes the many ways that people express themselves in words, movement, music and images. It reveals itself in the ways people choose to spend their time, the music they listen to, the books they read and the films they watch, the sports they encourage, and the historical sites and natural environments they protect. These factors shape how a nation sees itself, and how it establishes its identity.” - Statistics Canada (1995). To put it in simpler words, as Flarlex (2004) defined, Cultural identity is the (feeling of) identity of a group or individual or of an individual as far as she/he is influenced by her/his belonging to a group or culture.”

Referring back to the above UK example, indeed, amongst other things the Indian or Chinese takeaway’ has become a way of life in the UK and many might see such ways of life as an example of how globalization can destroy national identities, but in truth the traditional UK dish of fish and chips is still the surviving. The introduction of such global cultures as the ‘Chinese takeaway’ does not mean people are about to abandon their customs, family and religious or national identities. In fact, as Tomlinson (2002) argues, cultural identity is much more the product of globalization than its victim. Basically, because people like to feel they belong to a group and that there are differences between groups it naturally flows that those difference are the identities.

Tomlinson’s (2002) idea of cultural identity is connections which exist locally, autonomous and well defined where these connections sustain a balance between geographical place and cultural experience and because these experiences are treated as their possession where they can also be inherited, they are also equally fragile and need protecting and preserving from being lost. This is also the reason why globalization has become the main enemy for academics, journalists, and political activists.

2.3 Globalization, popular culture and global consumerism

Waters (2003) identified several elements of the new paradigm of globalization.  It is not necessary to detail all those elements but one of the most important is that globalization involves a collapse of universalism and particularism. The collapse basically means people see themselves as being both an individual and a member of the human species. This is an important fact because it affects the psychology of each individual, for example, depending on the situation, one would choose to be treated as an individual rather than be being treated as member of a group as long as it provides a better advantage. The other major element is that globalization involves extended tolerance of risk taking, as Waters (2003) pointed out in the same paper: “In previous eras one trusted the immediate, the knowable, the present and the material. Under globalization individuals extends trust to unknown persons, to impersonal forces and norms and to patterns of symbolic exchange that appears to be beyond the control of any concrete individual or group of individuals”

This extended tolerance on risk taking and trust would be a major advantage for internet shopping sites as gaining trust is the most important aspect on gaining sales (the subject of trust will be explained later on in this report). The rise of popular culture could be one of the reasons that help this push of the extended risk. There is various ways to define popular culture, as Storey (2001) mentions, popular culture can be simply things or ways of doing things that is well like by people. Others would suggest that it is culture that is the remaining sub-product of high culture, i.e. cultures that do not meet the standards to qualify as ‘high culture’. Either way, popular cultures are more acceptable by ordinary people and since popular culture promote the ideas of risk taking hence the rise of trust.

The other reason of increased trust is because of the products of popular culture - the ‘image driven culture’, as Gottdiener (2001) said, image driven culture is “material goods are not connected directly to the demand of life, instead, they are converted to signs, people respond to these goods as images and signs”. So people trust something as long as it has a trusting image, for example, in a movie, a good looking person is always the ‘hero’ and trustworthy, and the ‘villain’ are always less than average looking, where in fact it is not necessary true in the ‘real’ world. For example, spider has the image of poison and being scary and many adults are indeed scared of it, but babies are quite comfortable being next the spider, this is because they have not been subjected to ‘image bombardment’.  

One of the reasons for this major push of image driven culture is because the content of popular culture is determined in large partly by industries that distribute cultural materials, such as TV, Films etc where they have spread the ideas of having these images and signs are important. This has also increase the steps of global consumerism, as BrainyEncyclopedia (2004) defined, “is the tendency of people to identify strongly with products or services they consume, especially those with commercial brand names and obvious status-enhancing appeal, e.g. expensive automobile, rich jewellery. It is a pejorative term which most people deny, having some more specific excuse or rationale for consumption than the idea that they're ‘compelled to consume’. To those who accept the idea of consumerism, these products are not seen as valuable in themselves, but rather as social signals or a reducer of anxiety about belonging.

 

Furthermore to global consumerism, as Smith (2003) mentions, despite the complexity of culture difference, the image driven culture is accepted worldwide because there are many common needs that manifest themselves into common wants and purchasing patterns, particular when there are similar levels of economic wealth. These convergence of consumerism are partly due to “Compunications”- where the meaning of this term is the uniting of computers and communications technologies such as most communication artefacts have became more accessible, personalise etc. These effects have reduced the complexity of global marketing, one fits all advertising campaign for all cultures, for example, global brand such as Nike and Microsoft uses the same advertising campaign. 

 

To conclude, although in some ways it seems globalization has undermined certain local cultures, international companies could actually create opportunities for entering into local markets by understanding the target market’s local culture and there effects.

Cohen and Kennedy (2000) in the book ‘Global Sociology’ identified three types response on the part of local cultures to the supposedly homogenizing of global consumerism.

·         Indigenization - The term indigenization is widely used in Christian missions where it refers to making the Gospel understood in the language and thought forms of the local people and to efforts to make the church autonomous in its organization. Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (2004), where in the field of culture research, it can understand as how a particular external culture occurring naturally in a particular region or environment. Cohen and Kennedy(2000) uses how Christmas incorporate into Japanese gift culture with no difficulty and how Bollywood is an interesting case of indigenization as it has adapted Hollywood mass media culture.

 

·         Re-invention and rediscovery – Cohen and Kennedy (2000) has explained this term as the revival of declining tradition culture, they gave an example on how UK’s cheeses and sausages, that are traditional, are forgotten. But due to the “resistance to heterogeneity” where in this case, resistant to global cuisine, it was revived. A more recent example by experience of the author was in Hong Kong where a traditional Chinese Tea house offering fast version of tradition of Chinese food to compete with American fast food restaurants.

 

·         Creolization – it is referred as how a mix of culture has created new forms of invention, Cohen and Kennedy (2000) gave examples of how Indian spices are use in traditional stews and pie. Creolization is very apparent in Hong Kong as inhabitants of the city are being educated in two different cultures. One more recently example is how McDonalds in HK sells rice as well as burgers on their menu.

 

More importantly, culture is about how an individual or group of people do things, grouping or categorising is not just about finding out their geographic locations and one’s traditions, and more importantly, culture changes over time as evidence in history such as the colonization in Hong Kong by the British and its handover back to China. Another example is a survey conducted by Grey (2002) in the United States where it shows

85 percent have cut back on spending

90 percent said that the simple joys in life is what matters the most

87 percent were more aware of the importance of the family

 

This is significantly different to a similar survey done in 1997 where the main goal of life is to afford as many luxuries as they can.

 

Although it is still debatable whether globalization undermines local culture, it is no doubt that it is happening and it indeed created many opportunities, especially the effects of compunications such as the Internet where it created many e-commerce businesses.

 

Culture is a concept that is impossible to explain and fully understood in the space of a section but it is hope that by investigating culture, it would form the basis of further research and gives reader an idea of how culture affects psychology and attitude.

 


3. Trust

In the previous section the idea of culture has been defined to a certain degree and the effects of globalization has also been described. This chapter will concentrate on the other major element to an Internet Shopping Site – Trust, where it will investigate what causes and influence trust. 

3.1 The importance of Trust in relation to internet shopping

 

Trust is needed whenever there is interaction between parties of two or more; it is also a fundamental requirement of economic activity. Many different definitions of trust have been described in many different contexts: from legal definition (e.g. investment trust, living trust) to a more personal definition, such as “firm reliance on the integrity, ability or character of a person” - Panetta (2002). Rather then restating all these definitions, this section will specifically describe trust related to internet shopping.

 

In a study by Rutter (2001), he discovered that customer trust has very little relationship to the understanding of technical security: “trust is not something that can be offered to technologies regardless of how artificially intelligent or interactive they may appear. Trust is a good traded between individuals rather than between people and mediating technologies.”  It should be noted that this statement does not mean to say security can be discarded as it is essential to provide an e-commerce service. It just means that the user would not question how secure the security measures really are as long as it has the image of security or be told it is secure (refer to the image driven culture in the previous section).

 

The Oxford dictionary defines trust as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something; the state of being responsible for someone or something.”  Clark (2000) has defined trust as relationships where the dictionary’s definition of trust is direct relationship which is the most effective trust and often it is built based on past experience whereas the image of trustworthiness is the least effective. In business terms it is whether the consumer believes the competence of the service provider can adequately satisfy their expectation. In traditional shopping, the trust relationship can be build by giving customers visual clues, such as the size and lay-out of stores and interaction between staff, as customers’ past experiences affect their judgement. Grabner-Kraeuter (2002), Chong(2003)

 

If businesses require a higher level of trust, the following definition: “credit given, especially delivery of property or merchandise is upon future payment, or exchange without immediate receipt of an equivalent; selling or buying by trust” - Webster's 1913 Dictionary seems to be the most appropriate. And this is exactly what Internet shopping requires, because it is more difficult to promote risk taking from the consumer than ‘real’ shopping despite the rise of popular culture. This is because the trading stretches over spaces and times in which payment and personal information are also required before the receipt of the goods. Hence, the customer (trustor) has to have enough trust in the company (trustee) to overcome the risk considerations in order to use its services.  In other words, trust is a decision factor on whether to make that purchase as suggested by Grabner-Kraeuter (2002) where he said, “Having only limited cognitive resources available, consumers seek to reduce the uncertainty and complexity of transactions in electronic markets by applying mental shortcuts. One effective mental shortcut is trust”. To be more precise, it is whether the customer can risk believing in the company will fulfilling the order on time whilst providing security of information and customer support.

 

Much research has been done on how to gain cognitive trust, such as trust seals, whereas Riegelsberger (2003) suggested human trust decisions are also based on affective reactions, which can be triggered by interpersonal cues. One interpersonal cue he was investigating was the use of photographs: Fogg (2002) found that photos accompanying on-line articles can increase their credibility. Usability can also play an important role in gaining trust, as confirmed by Lanford (2004) where in his paper he also suggests design guidelines to promote trustworthiness. Kim (2003) on the other hand suggested a framework explaining the subsequent relationships of trust and satisfaction (trust? satisfaction? post-trust? long-term trust) where long-term trust is the goal of the framework and it depends on the post-purchase process (i.e. trustworthiness) rather than the first-time use.

3.2 Influences on trust building

 

“After a doctor, the person we would most trust is the average person who's 'just like us’” - Hart (2004)

 

It should become clear that Trust is the single most important concept on a shopping site, but the question is what causes one to have trust, Gidden (2001)  mentioned in his book “Trust in other people used to be based in local community. Living in a more globalize society, however our lives are influence by people we meet, who may be living on the far side of the world from us”, indeed, as mentioned before, globalization has created opportunity and barriers, and even with the help of image influence, trust is still hard to gain. And whether of not there is advance technology, the influences of trust remains the same i.e. Factors that are affecting people’s judgement, hence social and culture factors. 

 

3.2.1 How cultural/social factors affect trust

 

In Gidden’s theory, trust means having confidence in an ‘abstract system’ where trust and risk are bound together. Humans need to have ‘ontological security’ in order to live; it refers to a person’s basic sense of safety in the world where it includes a basic ‘trust’ of other people.  This basic sense of security is developed early on in childhood and continues to play an important role in adult life which means the way a person is taught, trained and other influences such as experience.  Recalling from pervious sections, this is the elements of cultures and thus culture has an affect in the way of how person gives trust and it would be different in different culture. 

 

“Trust theories and mechanisms developed in the western context might not apply for other societies, especially since culture may affect the antecedents of trust” - Chong (2003).  Simon (2001) has also indicated that "Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it is learned.” Meaning the peer-group influence and life experience would affect one’s perspective, this is shown by a study done by Tseng and Stern (1996), they discovered significant differences in the information gathering behaviour between North American and Asian cultural groups, conducted within a financial decision setting, Asians were found to desire higher levels of interpersonal communication (e.g. personal selling), which, in turn, affected the perceived trustworthiness of the information source Steinwachs (1999)

 

In Lanford’s (2004) article, although the guidelines (as shown below) on building trustworthiness have not been designed to facilitate culture, it would still be possible to view them as culture implemented if presented from Hofstede (1990) perspective.

 

Fig. 2 Lanford’s (2004) guideline on building trustworthiness

 

o         Fulfil the customer’s expectations,

o         Let the user feel in control,

o         Put consumer interests above your own,

o         Build a good reputation, i.e., not just real but also perceived trustworthiness,

o         Consider moving certain risky actions to third parties.

 

Source: Lanford (2004)

 

 

 

The guidelines are somewhat common sense as the entire factor list is important in any culture, business and however distant.  The interesting part is “Build a good reputation, i.e., not just real but also perceived trustworthiness”. The question is how to design a site that looks like it is trustworthy, or in order words, use certain main tricks or influence for believing in you. Before moving onto the detailed presentation and aesthetic front of web design in the next section, here is an article by Marcus & Gould (2000) which explains in detail the relations between Hofstede’s five dimensions and web design. One thing which needs to be noted is that Marcus & Gould (2000) inspected websites mainly on ‘information purpose’ sites such as government and universities and did not focus on a B2C commerce site.

 

Fig.3 Hofstede’s five dimensions and how it might affect web design

Power-distance

 

o         Access to information: highly (high PD) vs. less-highly (low PD) structured.

o         Hierarchies in mental models: tall vs. shallow.

o         Emphasis on the social and moral order (e.g., nationalism or religion)and its symbols: significant/frequent vs. minor/infrequent use.

o         Focus on expertise, authority, experts, certifications, official stamps, or logos: strong vs. weak.

o         Prominence given to leaders vs. citizens, customers, or employees.

o         Importance of security and restrictions or barriers to access: explicit, enforced, frequent restrictions on users vs. transparent, integrated, implicit freedom to roam.

o         Social roles used to organize information (e.g., a managers' section obvious to all but sealed off from non-managers): frequent vs. infrequent

 

Collectivism vs. individualism

o         Motivation based on personal achievement: maximized (expect the extra-ordinary) for individualist cultures vs. underplayed (in favour of group achievement) for collectivist cultures.

o         Images of success: demonstrated through materialism and consumerism vs. achievement of social-political agendas.

o         Rhetorical style: controversial/argumentative speech and tolerance or encouragement of extreme claims vs. official slogans and subdued hyperbole and controversy.

o         Prominence given youth and action vs. aged, experienced, wise leaders and states of being.

o         Importance given individuals vs. products shown by themselves or with groups.

o         Underlying sense of social morality: emphasis on truth vs. relationships.

o         Emphasis on change: what is new and unique vs. tradition and history.

o         Willingness to provide personal information vs. protection of personal data differentiating the individual from the group.

 

Femininity vs. masculinity

 

High-masculinity cultures would focus on the following user-interface and design elements:

o         Traditional gender/family/age distinctions.

o         Work tasks, roles, and mastery, with quick results for limited tasks.

o         Navigation oriented to exploration and control.

o         Attention gained through games and competitions.

o         Graphics, sound, and animation used for utilitarian purposes.

 

Feminine cultures would emphasize the following user-interface elements:

o         Blurring of gender roles.

o         Mutual cooperation, exchange, and support, (rather than mastery and winning).

o         Attention gained through poetry, visual aesthetics, and appeals to unifying values.

 

 

Uncertainty avoidance

 

High-UA cultures would emphasize the following:

o         Simplicity, with clear metaphors, limited choices, and restricted amounts of data.

o         Attempts to reveal or forecast the results or implications of actions before users act.

o         Navigation schemes intended to prevent users from becoming lost.

o         Mental models and help systems that focus on reducing "user errors."

o         Redundant cues (colour, typography, sound, etc.) to reduce ambiguity.

 

Low UA cultures would emphasize the reverse:

o         Complexity with maximal content and choices.

o         Acceptance (even encouragement) of wandering and risk, with a stigma on "over-protection."

o         Less control of navigation; for example, links might open new windows leading away from the original location.

o         Mental models and help systems might focus on understanding underlying concepts rather than narrow tasks.

o         Coding of colour, typography, and sound to maximize information (multiple links without redundant cueing).

 

Long- vs. short-term orientation

 

Based on the definition, high LT countries would emphasize the following aspects of user-interface design:

o         Content focused on practice and practical value.

o         Relationships as a source of information and credibility.

o         Patience in achieving results and goals.

 

Low LT countries would emphasize the contrary:

o         Content focused on truth and certainty of beliefs.

o         Rules as a source of information and credibility.

o         Desire for immediate results and achievement of goals

 

Source:  Marcus & Gould (2000)

 

Both Hofstedes and Marcus & Gould work has been highly regarded and although there is some resistance to the Hofstede’s methodologies such as McSweeney's critique (2002) and a blog posted by Cheung (2004). But there is no doubt that culture/social factors have a certain influence on trust as Marcus & Gould shows and better understanding of how cultural differences will certainly affect consumer evaluations may help the design of international websites such as multilingual sites, the strategies includes how parallels can be made with the interpersonal clues.

Much research relating to culture and web design has been carried out in recent years by referring to Hofstede, examples include a project by Barber and Badre (1998) which aims to understand the relationship between culture and usability, and has produced a list of cultural markers of web designs and a more recent study by Chau, Cole, Massey, Montoya-Weiss, O'Keefe (2002) where they noted: “consumer interfaces targeted to different countries/cultures may not need to be completely different from each other, but there must be some features that allow the targeted audience to feel at home.”  The results from the Simon (2001) study also confirm that there are indeed differences between cultural and gender-based perception and satisfaction with websites. But as the previous section argues, with culture studies, there is always the danger of people being put in groups purely by their geographic location as the study above has done. This method of grouping has become a serious problem due to the escalation of “Compunication”.  One of the main problems is how the Internet has created a global and universal audience whereby each person can gain global information easily, meaning person A from country X and person B from country Z actually desires the same thing even though they live in opposite site of the world. As whonose (2004) mentioned in previous section, one classic example of “Compunication”, such as the use of media coverage, is the “Beckham Phenomenon” in 2003, where he has been considered as a hero and iconic figure in many East Asian countries; even through he does not have any direct relationship with them.

 

3.2.2 Aesthetic

 

Discard the effects of global and local culture for a moment and see the presentational site of web design as a whole. Referring back to image driven culture, where people respond better to something with better images. This is true of all cultures because it is the nature of human beings, meaning one trusts something more beautiful, despite the idea of beautiful is difficult to define. From Pythagorean to Plato, there are many attempts in defining aesthetic theories, such as some have suggested that aesthetic experience allows us to glimpse something of the noumenal world and other suggested that experience of beauty involved a certain type of response and a certain type of stimulus. But Leath(1996) in his paper defined all experience as aesthetic, based on the belief that all experience is perception where he also said “aesthetic experience is not characterized by distance, disinterestedness, or beauty, as some aestheticians have supposed, but by a concentration originating in the organism causing it to perceive its environment with a heightened or more vivid perception.”

 

It can take forever to detail the ideas of aesthetics and does not matter if there will ever be a universal theory on it but one thing which is certain is that beauty is power, as the French writer Anatole France once said, “Beauty is the greatest power in this world”.

This idea seems to be supported by the Italian Psychologist Schelotto (2001) when she said, “Aesthetics have replaced ethics, so that stealing is no longer immoral, but being ugly and fat is.” So the question lies on the methods on influencing the viewer so that the ‘objects’, ‘image’ or the ‘idea’ they are viewing are aesthetically pleasing.

 

According to Berleant (2004), amongst other things, culture influences perception.  He also defines cultural aesthetic as “the characteristic sensory, conceptual, and ideational matrix that constitutes the perceptual environment of a culture. It encompasses the typical qualities and configurations of colour, sound, texture, light, movement, smell, taste, perceptual pattern, space, temporal sensibility, and size in juxtaposition with the human body, and the influence of traditional patterns of belief and practice on the creation and apprehension of these qualities.”, where Jennings (2000) also defined aesthetic as “The narrow meaning of aesthetics is generally embodied in purely visual aspects, often related to the principles of design (balance, emphasis, harmony, proportion, rhythm and unity)” where the principles are always stressed in many cultures, such as the Yin and Yang where it focuses on the balance and harmony of power by two opposite sides and that these two sides can not live without each other (e.g. man and woman, light and dark, right or wrong etc.)

 

Furthermore, In Karvonens paper (2000), she shows how the ‘beautiness’ of web design affects the feeling of online trust and emphasises that aesthetic experiences matter, even when - or especially when - we are not conscious of making them.  SAP design guild (2004) published a guideline on simplification for usability, it mentions how aesthetic factors serve as a motivational factor as well as an organizational factor which they both contribute to efficiency. It also further explained an aesthetic influence on motivation, trust and how it creates better organization. So aesthetics do not only mean it is more encouraging to use but it is in fact easier to use. This increase in motivation in proven by a group of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) where they demonstrated that when heterosexual men recognize attractiveness in both female and male faces, they will expend effort to increase their viewing of attractive female faces only. The research also shows that areas of the brain previously identified as responding to such rewards as food, drugs and money also respond to facial beauty. The study appears in the November 8 issue of Neuron -McGreevey (2001) meaning beauty is link to the positive side of the brain trigging positive emotion.

 

The use of ‘sex appeal’ and attractive image is well exercise in the field of media studies. This idea of using image for more effective communication is first studied in the field semiotics where semiotics has been defined as ‘the science of the life of sign in society’ where it is the study of signs and their use as communicative tools. But one thing needs to point out is that signs can exist in any medium, and it may be verbal, non-verbal, or both.

 

In a guide by Chandler (2001), he also identify the influence of culture in semiotics, “Whilst technological determinists emphasize that semiotic ecologies are influenced by the fundamental design features of different media, it is important to recognize the importance of socio-cultural and historical factors in shaping how different media are used and their (ever-shifting) status within particular cultural contexts. For instance, many contemporary cultural theorists have remarked on the growth of the importance of visual media compared with linguistic media in contemporary society and the associated shifts in the communicative functions of such media.”

Another point to argue is that aesthetic is related to culture because aesthetic relates to previous thoughts, as Ellsworth (2002) mentioned an argument where she says “many argue that emotions are basically innate an universal or that emotions are basically constructed by one’s culture” this argument is based on the understanding that past experiences, education, training, our ideas and other kinds of knowledge would influence the way we understand a particular transfer unit on a particular medium (e.g. how one might see an image differently to another person, others might see a sign having a different meaning to another person) and since all humans belong to the same species, they would have the same emotions (e.g. happy, sad etc.). There is no need to understand the emotions in detail but it necessary to understand what and how to create positive emotion.

 

It is understood that anyone will have a positive emotion when received or looking at something they ‘like’ or furthermore to that – ‘Love’. Starting with first impressions, it is about how a person forms impression about other people by getting information about them and comparing that information with what they know and the actual information can arrive via various routes Wilson and McLaughlin (1996).  It is very convenient that it is exactly what culture has been defined as and indeed first impression is important, so understanding how ‘like’ is crucial, drawing from the field of psychology, Aronson, Wilson and Akert (2002) defined three causes of ‘liking’,

 

1. The propinquity effect - it is “the finding that the more we see and interact with people, the more likely they are to become friends”,

 

2. Similarity – “propinquity increase familiarly, which leads to liking, but something more is needed to fuel a growing friendship or no romantic relationship and that fuel is Similarity”

 

3.  Reciprocal liking - where one will respond by liking if they are being liked.

 

To summarized, a person will be liked if they are familiar to the viewer, similar to the viewer and pay attention to the viewer. Although this theory is aims at personal relationship it is actually very appropriate to be used for designing Internet sites, because although the Internet has a large audience, it is very personal to the person viewing it and the sites are also interactive to the viewer. This means that the viewer would judge it the same way as a person i.e. its appearance (format, graphic fonts etc), the way it speaks (the language of the content), and the way it responds to request (the linking, search result etc).

 

It is difficult to define in detail how the above literature can be put to practical use on Internet shopping site but it is certain that a likable Internet site would be same as a likable person where they would both trigger positive emotion i.e. be seen, be similar to other things that viewer sees and be personal and praise the viewer.


4. Summarised theory

Before moving on to the research section it is necessary to summarise the literature which has been learnt so far:

 

*          Trust is one of the most important factors for a person to purchase an item, particularly when the translation takes place virtually (i.e.  On the Internet) as described in section 3.

 

*          One way to gain trust is to make a person feel familiar to his or her purchase environment,.  Recognising the culture would be an ideal way to know his ways of thinking.

 

*          Culture is about how an individual or group of people do things, grouping or categorising is not just about finding out their geographic locations and one’s traditions, it is in fact finding information on their current perspective and the current most acceptable ways of doing things.

 

*          The strategy in using culture to influence is to send the message in a way so that it triggers personal cues; hence the viewer will pay more attention because the message is somehow familiar. The power of familiarity can not be underestimated, as shown in the previous section.

 

*          There is no doubt that humans trust more ‘beautiful things’, meaning aesthetic factors serve as an   important role in initial trust persuasion. Although there are many attempts in defining aesthetic, it can still be assumed that ‘beautiful things’ should affect one’s emotion and that person should somehow feel related to the transfer unit and hence that person’s eye would stay at the transfer unit longer that usual.  This is important as it increases the power of familiarity and ‘remember that one’ effect.  It does not matter whether that emotion is familiar or desirable as long as it does not create a negative representation.  

 

Research studies such as the remarkable Eyetrack III (2003) are important. In this study they took 46 Internet users and looked through their eyes while they are reading newspaper web site, utilizing sophisticated and non-intrusive eye tracking equipment so that they can peer into user’s minds and see patterns that even they don't consciously see. This research provides us with very useful findings relating to how humans behave as general, fig.4 is a summarized version of the research. Although it does not address the culture factor it is an important finding for users in general specifically relating to the aesthetic factor.

Fig.4 Guidelines given by EyetrackIII

 

 

Article level

·          When readers encountered a story with an introductory paragraph, 95percent of them read all or part of the introductory paragraph.

·          Those who spent time carefully reading the introductory paragraph of a story on article-level pages typically spent little time with the full story.

·          Those who gave the intro paragraphs little time usually spent even less time with the story text.

·          Shorter paragraphs encouraged testers to continue reading.

·          Story text in one-column format was read more extensively than story text presented in a "newspaper-like" multiple-column format.

·          Subheads in online stories had little affect on how much of the first or top portion of the story was read when the reader's interest was strongest.

·          However, subheads increased reading for "skimmers" and for those whose attention in a story was beginning to wane.

·          When readers got to an article-level page, they seemed to be there to view the text. Overall, participants' eyes fixated on the story or other text elements before the accompanying image.

 

 

Advertisement 

·          Performance depends on placement.

·          Observation: Ads that blend into the look and feel of the page --especially text ads -- draw more eyes

·          Size matters; "half-page" ads perform well.

·          Ads inset within article text are seen more than most other ads

·          Mouseover-expand ads were viewed more than other banner ads.

·          Static ads vs. animated ads revealed mix results.

·          Ads closer to the top left part of the page are generally seen before ads elsewhere.

·          Small pop-ups are quickly viewed, then closed or hidden.

 

 

Multi-media

·          There is a marginally significant difference in how test subjects correctly recalled story information that was presented in text vs. using multimedia. When asked to recall information about names and places, participants who received information in text were more likely to answer questions correctly.

·          However, information about a process or procedure that was unfamiliar to them was more correctly recalled when participants received it in a multimedia graphic format.

·          Users who received information in text form seemed to have better recall of specific factual information.

·          There was no significant difference between men and women when it came to recall of information presented in text or multimedia format.

 

 

Homepage

·          Readers are first drawn to the flag/logo and your top headlines, especially when they are located in the upper left of your page, so you may want to place important content in these areas. You might use other elements such as blurbs to override this instinct if there is some other content that you wish your readers to see before all else. Also remember that large headlines tend to attract more eye fixations sooner than some other page elements.

·          Understand that the first few words in a homepage headline are crucial in engaging the largest number of users. Also note that unusual initial words and words in all capital letters may influence how many eyes fixate on a particular headline.

·          Users will give you a minimum of five chances to engage them with headlines. Excellent headline writing in this environment can make a difference.

 

 

Headline

·          Smaller headlines integrated with blurb text resulted in participants scrolling further down the page.

·          "Hot" words can catch the eye of skimmers. (such as the word “FCUK”)

·          There seems to be a "dip" in reading the full length of titles at the bottom of the first screen (and subsequent screens) on small-headline pages.

·          Large headlines may make it easy to read a homepage (perhaps "too easy", they will miss other information).

 

Font size

·          Smaller font size results in a little more careful viewing of the page.

·          Disparity in font size seems to make a difference between scanning and reading behaviour.

 

 

Navigation

·          On homepages, top navigation captures more views than left or right navigation.

·          At the article level, left navigation is viewed most frequently.

·          People didn't spend much time looking at

·          navigation on our homepages.

·          Navigation gets used most on compact homepages.

 

Although the intended use was of a newspaper website, most of the guideline can be used on internet shopping site since it correspond to a research by Karvonen (2003), where she found trustworthiness of web sites has following patterns

 

Fig 5 Patten of trustworthiness

Trustworthy:

Untrustworthy:

Text-based

Image-based

Empty space as structural element

Empty space as background or “undefined” space

Strict grouping, Visual density

Grouping seemed random

Formal language

Informal language

Structured and linear upper part

Unstructured and non-linear upper part

Use of real photos

Use of cartoons/animations

 

The two studies clearly show similar patterns on how layout and elements on a site relate to creating pleasure in reading/viewing and also provide that more viewing means the more chance that the site will be trusted.

5 Preliminary research - An eBay experiment (UK) and informal discussion with its users (UK, Hong Kong)

This experiment consists of two parts, both are conducted informally but the validity should still remain as they are both conducted under a “real life” situation.  Part one of this experiment involved the researcher actually selling two identical items on eBay (UK).  This opportunity has came by chance as the researcher received identical gifts and the other reason for choosing eBay is that not only does it have a 99% market share but it also implies a more personal (C2C) selling feature where the need for trust is even more of a concern and trust is higher to gain.

Part One

Methods - The researcher used two types of description method in the description field for the two items. While both sales offer full details of the specification, the specification on item B are simply described in a “block” of text, where item A are placed in a table format and used selected title as well as font sizes using the guidelines given by the Eyetrack III(2003) research, such as the title NOT bolded (as Eyetrack III(2003) indicated, a smaller headline will force the viewer to scroll down the page hence reading the content in more detail and certain areas also have different fonts to highlight a ‘feature area’ (where it describes positive point of the item) and the bad points somehow blend in to the text to conceal it to a certain degree.

The objective of this action is to attract viewer to stay viewing at those positive areas and hopefully it will create a better impression and liking of the second item.

Issues - In order to attract viewing and fairness for both items, both offer pictures of the item and were placed under the 5-day listing at a reasonable starting price. The two items were placed at a different times (two weeks apart from each other) to stop any comparison between both items. The two auctions are conducted under the user agreement given by eBay and both items were sold and sent in a formal matter as in a real situation, the winner of both bids are invited to a post-purchase discussion with the researcher.

 Following is a screen capture of the two items.

Fig.6 Screen capture of item A Fig. 7 Screen capture of item B

Result - As mentioned the main idea of this research is to understand whether there is affect on viewer desire to place a bid. As expected, item A was sold at a much higher price than item B after much contact from prospective bidders, a huge amount of bids and viewers for item A.  Bidders were more interested and asked more ‘detailed’ questions such as “Does the camera have any scratches on it” and “Does it come with original packaging”. Although this small experiment does not signify any major discovery it does prove that humans do tend to trust more beautiful things when it is in a more personal matter meaning humans must trust more beautiful things.

Part two – Informal interview on how people feel on trust and aesthetic.

Introduction - The method in part two involved collecting data in the form of responses on their perceptions from selling on eBay, aesthetic and culture. Due to the time scale and the problem of distance the data collection is mainly sourced through MSN instant messaging.

 

Ethics – Although this part of the research is done informally, ethics still need to be considered. According to a published research guide by Oxford Brooks University (2003), when Human Participants are involved in research, codes of practice should be followed.  The following is a list of codes which are related to this research.

 

  • No research should cause harm, and preferably it should benefit participants

 

  • Participants should be free from coercion of any kind and should not be pressured to participate in a study

 

  • Participants in a research study have the right to give their informed consent before participating

 

  • Potential participants normally have the right to receive clearly communicated information from the researcher in advance

 

  • Participants' confidentiality and anonymity should be maintained

 

  • Researchers have a duty to disseminate their research findings to all appropriate parties

 

All participants will be informed on the nature, purpose and objectives of this research and no participants will be forced to take part. This research will occur at a place and time that both participants and researcher have agreed will provide an adequate amount of confidentiality and cause a minimum amount of inconvenience.  Research findings and reports will be made available to appropriate parties with participants’ identities concealed.

 

Research Approaches

 

In normal circumstances, this type of research involving responses from participants, grounded theory would be the ideal approach to use where it is especially relevant and helpful for analysing responses to statements, but in this case the idea is not to start from a theory but to get views from samples by engaging conversations on a particular topic (i.e. eBay), this research will be done in a formal primary research manner. Therefore, the method of informal interview is best approach. The samples are chosen through the experiment in part one as well as other samples from UK  and Hong Kong where they will be interviewed, using both MSN and face to face discussions.

However, in order to gain relevant information, the questions and centre of discussion will focus on trust and aesthetic, hence the starting question will be “How do you know if you can trust the seller?” and for the  buyers above it would be more personal by asking “Why do you trust me?”.

 

Result and Analysis

Trust - With the people that are interviewed in the UK there are mix views, some prefer to buy from an individual and some prefer to buy from eBay Shops, but one thing is certain is that they always check rating of the seller, the number shown next the user name, although the level of checking varies, i.e. Some pay close detail to all previous comments whereas some just looking at the ratings as one interviewee mentioned:

“I would prefer to buy from a seller that has high rating and I check all the feedbacks that he has received.”

In certain aspects this matches Hofstede (1990) culture index where UK was given a high IDV of 89, meaning each individual are equal and will be judged based on their past performance. New sellers would be given chances but the trust in them seems related to how the description is presented.  This will be discussed later. Results of the interviews in Hong Kong show a different picture.  History of the seller does not seem to matter; this is because the transactions normally take place face to face. (Meaning they meet up and exchange, this is possible because HK is only a city that is smaller then London) and they prefer it that way as they reluctant to accept or receive online payment or overseas purchase as one interviewee said:

“What the point paying for shipping when we can just meet up at a MTR station” (MTR is HK’s underground train service)

Unfortunately, this undermines the whole purpose of this research because there is no distant trust needed to be built. However, when asked about e-commerce sites it shows that they would rather buy from local shopping site that accepts local currency and they would buy from those sites if the prices are cheaper than that of the high street or if the product is difficult to find. The shipping cost does not seem to be factor as most sites offer free or very cheap shipping in HK (or cash on collection).

Aesthetic - Aesthetics seem to have a bigger effect than once previously thought, especially in the UK, for example, the use of photos as one interviewee said:

“I only buy items that come with a photo”

And the ‘type’ of photo also seems to plays a major role as well, as another interviewee mentioned:

“If the seller is new, than I would much rather see a photo of the product proving he does have it. But if the seller is established or has high rating, than it doesn’t matter, the (official) photo of the product is ok”

In general, viewers do prefer description in a better, clearer format, as one responded noted:

“I like it when there is detail available, better looking description shows that the seller is more professional”

To conclude, the author of this report has compiled a checklist using guidelines given by Eyetrack III(2003), Karvonen (2003) and Hofstede (1990) where it is divided into a different group of factors.  This checklist is generated mainly for the purpose of the primary research that will be conducted later, meaning it’s created in relation to Chinese culture. However, it could easily be adapted for a different culture.

Fig. 8 Check list on building a aesthetic website that facilitate Hong Kong/Chinese culture

Factor

Description

Local identifier

Icon and objects that reassemble Chinese culture

Navigation, Format, Grouping, Amount of space and length of paragraph (details of product)

Navigation needs to pass usability test. Empty space need to use as element Grouping of product need to be strict with details available.

"Hot" words and  Language content

Words that will certainly attract viewer attention and it needs to be in a more interpersonal friendly language

Font, size and colour

Maximize information by using coding of colour, typography sound etc.

 

English counterpart

It will give a better impression

Use of real photos

Types and size of photo needs to be considered.

Advertisement (link to external?)

It would give a better impression  assurance

Support/ feedback and Security indication

Need to shows an interpersonal relation in dealing with the support. Although this culture is willing to give out information, information security needs to be available.

 


6. Primary Research - Comparative study 

6.1 Positivist and Phenomenologist

 

There are two research paradigms - positivistic and the phenomenological, according to Finn (2000), the positivist believes that the world should be able to explain phenomena in terms of what causes the behaviour, seeing reality as being objective, and in naturalism; his aim is to discover facts and their relationship to the world. This approach is dependant on measurements, it uses the scientific method and experimentation to attempt to distinguish natural laws through direct manipulation and observation.  This means that research is progressed by checking facts against the initial theory, then modifying the theory to better predict reality. One extreme view of positivism is that the world can be understood well enough such that it can be predicted and controlled.

 

Phenomenology on the other hand is attempt to understand and describe phenomena exactly as they appear in an individual's consciousness; to get at the interrelationship between life and world, says Phillipson (1972), i.e. See and interpret things from individual’s perspective, focusing on social processes and how individuals shape and give meaning to the social world, instead of studying theories of the social world. Phenomenology’s aim is to rediscover experiences before cultural filters have affected the subject’s understanding in a subjective and humanistic way.

 

Henderson (1990) listed the characteristics of each paradigm:

 

Positivist

  • Assumes an external world determining behaviour
  • Strives for explanation, prediction and control, and isolating them
  • Mechanistic process for explaining social behaviour
  • Researcher is objective and value-free
  • Truth has to be confirmed with empirical evidence

 

Phenomenologist

  • Social reality is multiple, divergent and interrelated
  • Analysis from the actor’s own perspective
  • Human behaviour is how people define their own world
  • Reality is the meaning attributed to experience and is not the same for everyone

 

The two paradigms are seen as two extremes of continuum, but in reality research is carried out using methods from both paradigms as Gephart(1999) pointed out: “The positivist focus on experimental and quantitative methods used to test and verify hypotheses have been superseded or complemented to some extent by an interest in using qualitative methods to gather broader information outside of readily measured variables.”

 

To summarise, a positivist is someone who tries to understand the world by causes and effects and a phenomenologist will explain the world from one’s point of view.

 

Comparative research methods

 

“Comparative research methods have long been used in cross-cultural studies to identify, analyse and explain similarities and differences across societies” -Hantrais (1996).  This method is widely used in social science research; it ensures a high degree of validity while at the same time gives a reasonable control of key variables.

 

6.2 Methods

Although it is difficult to prove that an aesthetic site with culture factor is trustworthy, it is possible to show that a trustworthy site is aesthetic and contain aesthetic factors to a certain degree. By using the checklist as a tool and benchmark on two known trusted sites, this research is use to identify if this is correct and how each site facilitates Chinese culture and builds trust.

Check list on building a aesthetic website that facilitate Hong Kong/Chinese culture

Factor

Description

Local identifier

Icon and objects that reassemble Chinese culture

Navigation, Format, Grouping, Amount of space and length of paragraph (details of product)

Navigation needs to pass usability test. Empty space need to use as element Grouping of product need to be strict with details available.

"Hot" words and  Language content

Words that will certainly attract viewer attention and it needs to be in a more interpersonal friendly language

Font, size and colour

Maximize information by using coding of colour, typography sound etc.

 

English counterpart

It will give a better impression

Use of real photos

Types and size of photo needs to be considered.

Advertisement (link to external?)

It would give a better impression  assurance

 

 

6.3 Research result and analysis

The checklist in the previous section is used as a tool to compare two trusted internet sites; seven elements of each site will be evaluated where they are comprises of aesthetics and culture factors, each element will be study and analysis meaning it would be possible to identified reasons of each sites implementation. Following is profiles of the two sites.

Fig. 9 Company Profile – http://www.layoyo.com

Established on 28th June, 1999, at present, LAYOYO.com (formerly DVDshelf.com) has become the largest Internet online retailer of Chinese Entertainment products in the world where they have a large selection of Chinese and foreign titles with clearly categorized to facilitate movie, books and music lover ease to search.

Layoyo.com has organizes its product in to videos, music CD, books etc. it then further divided each category into new, pre-order, discount products etc. 

 

Fig. 10 Company Profile - http://www.yesasia.com

Since its launch in 1998, YesAsia.com has become the leading Internet source for Asian entertainment products, and the company stated that it aims to facilitate information access and order placement for its worldwide customers, YesAsia.com has tailored its website for different cultures through the localization of languages, content, design, and product offerings.

Yesasia.com has organizes its product in to videos, music CD, books etc, each category are then divided by country of production, it is then further divide into top, new, discount product etc. 

 

Both sites can be expected to be trustworthy as they both have a large customer base and they were in the top ranking provided by respectful companies such as alexa.com and AC Nielsen//NetRatings' Survey.

Comments from a semi-professional web designer and the site Amazon.co.uk will also be used as a benchmark as it remains as one of the most popular and trusted sites.

 


A. Local identifier and Location of the identifier

 

Fig.11 Identifier used

 

Yesasia.com

Layayo.com

Company Icon

Langue Switching

Area Identifier

,

 

Currency Switch

 

Findings and Analysis

Upper left can be seen as the anchor of a site in most web design guideline, as show in webstyleguide and eyetrack III.

The guideline from Eyetrack III has shown that viewer will first notice the left hand corner and it should be used to identify company’s identity (e.g. name and first impression) which both site have done whereas Amazon.co.uk has also used this corner as an opportunity for introducing new sections.

Yesasia.com has also chosen the flag of the country (e.g. Hong Kong SAR flag) as the Local identifier where it has appeared at the upper middle of each page. It also supports different language and different Local currency. At different language product’s main page, it shows culture related objects and related icons as well as cooperate Language syntax in the graphic to enforce the understanding, such as “Chinese Entertainment Products” and “Korean Entertainment” (part IV of the Table above), whereas Layoyo.com had the icon where it means traditional Chinese (part III) and the company logo also has two Chinese characters saying the name of the site.

The support of different currency also seems to be an important factor since both sites emphasise the ability to give a quotation price in different currency, this is consistent to the informal interview in the previous section showing that people tend to see the acceptance of their currency as one of the deciding factor for purchase and that they would prefer to buy from a seller that accepts their local currency and therefore giving the impression that the product is sold locally.

On the aesthetic front, apart from using local identifiers, the most obvious way user have immediate reorganization is to show local related contents, yesasia.com has done that showing only the same language in the homepage (i.e. Only Chinese products in the Chinese homepage, Japanese product and Japanese Homepage). Layoyo.com did not use separate language pages as it did not organise products that way.

 

B. Navigation, Format, Grouping, Amount of space and length of paragraph

 

Fig. 11 Navigation

 

 

 

Yesasia.com

Navigation Top

 

Navigation

Left and Right

 

 

Main Body

Layoyo.com

Navigation Top

 

Navigation

Left

 

Main Body

 

Findings and Analysis

 

Navigation needs to pass usability test. Yesasia.com has adapted the two menu navigation systems similar to Amazon.co.uk where the top menu is static it contains links to pages of a different category, it also contains a sub menu that leads to a different subcategory page up to three levels where the other menus is two dynamic menu blocks on both the left and right side of the page, it offers related information such as similar products and related categories to encourage “impulse clicking”. Layoyo.com also uses the top static menu system, but since it only expands to two levels, it has an array of information on the second level.

Although the Chinese language is difficult to understand for a non-Chinese speaking person there is no doubt they would be aware of the direction on reading traditional Chinese syntax is first from up to down then left to right as the figure below illustrates.

Fig. 12 Directions of reading in Chinese and English

Chinese                                         English

                                                                                                                                               

The traditional Chinese reading direction is still used for conventional transfer medium such as books and certain newspapers (hence why an English person always mentions how Chinese read back to front), but the influence of English did played a major role, one piece of evidence is how The China Press in America discarded Up-Down for Left-Right Reading - New York Times (March 25, 2002). Chinese websites are the other major indication of such influence as no Chinese web site uses the up-down reading format (e.g. yeasia and layayo), this is partly because of the problem in implementation but it is also because the users of the Internet would have already adapted the left-right style (i.e. effects of “compucation”).

Grouping of products needs to be strict with details available, this does not only mean the appearance but the organization of the database although it seems obvious that many sites fail to achieve this idea as many other sites produced errors such as duplicate listing, difficult search etc.

Grouping and the amount of space used shows the biggest difference of the two sites.  At the home page, Yesasia.com has chosen to focus on one product as the spotlight product for each category where it also completes with a medium sized photo and introductory paragraph. Layoyo.com uses a different format where it shows up to five products with small sizes photos and is not complete with an introductory paragraph.  This corresponds with Hofstede’s culture index, Hong Kong has a relatively low UA of 29 compare to the world average of 64, in a certain aspect the appearance of both sites is consistent with Marcus & Gould (2000) description of low UA culture where they noted “Complexity with maximal content and choices” and encourage wandering, on the two sites, even though not many products are shown on the front page i.e. the ‘star’ product, it does give an appearance that both sites offer a large amount choice and range with many links that allow the viewer to explore.

Empty space need to use as an element. This is agreed by the semi-professional where he believed that although both sites gave an impression of professionalism and quality (providing what is needed with efficiency) Yesasia.com has achieved better because of how the ‘blank’ spaces are used. He believes that empty spaces should be avoided as much as possible and one of the best way to use space is by having it as a separation or boundary.

C. "Hot" words and Language content

Using Hofstede’s culture index, Hong Kong as high LTD of 96, explanation by Marcus & Gould (2000) of high LTD culture is.

o         Content focused on practice and practical value.

o         Relationships as a source of information and credibility.

 

“Focused on practice and practical value” - In the case of internet shopping, practical values would almost certainly mean the prices and value of product, hence it would be same to assume that the viewer will get attracted by adverts that indicated values, referring back to the ‘FCUK’ example where it will grip viewer’s attention, the content i.e. ‘hot’ words for shopping sites in HK would be to focus on values and not words that attract attention in the same way as ‘FCUK’.

Both yesasia.com and layayao.com has recognizes this. There spotlight has indeed been focus on values

Fig. 13 Hot Words

 

Yesasia.com

Layayo.com

Advertisment/Spotlight

 

The need to be in a more interpersonal and friendly language - Cantonese is one of the main sub-divisions of Chinese language spoken in Hong Kong and it is a strange language where it has different syntax for speaking and writing, as cantonese.ca identified that Cantonese (or Yue) is one of the five major Chinese languages. These are often called "dialects", but in actuality their differences are great enough to consider them separate languages…….As a colloquial language, Cantonese is full of slang and non-standard usage. The language of youth is rapidly evolving, and new slang and trendy expressions are constantly emerging.

Fig. 14 Example of difference in Chinese

English

Formal

Cantonese speaking

Thank you

??,

??.

Have you eaten yet?

??????

???????

 

 

 

 

In Hong Kong, academic and other document writing such as essays and letters uses the formal writing style is used whereas ?? and ?????? would be considered as inappropriate, even they will have to translate it in to Cantonese when they have to present it. However, the iGeneration in Hong Kong does not seem to use formal language on their regular communication such as e-mails and instant messaging, this phenomena is somewhat similar to the ‘text language’ use by teenagers in the UK such as ‘c u l8r’ (meaning see you later!). The main idea here is not to understand all the differences between Chinese and Cantonese but that Cantonese is seen as more friendly and personal and is preferred by younger generations and since because the web is mainly dominated by this age group, this dialect should be use because it would build on Marcus & Gould (2000)’s description - Relationships as a source of information and credibility.

D. Font, size and colour

 

Before moving on to the comparing the two site, it is important to review guidelines on articles and font sizes given by EyetrackIII (2003)

 

Articles,

·          When readers encountered a story with an introductory paragraph, 95percent of them read all or part of the introductory paragraph.

·          Those who spent time carefully reading the introductory paragraph of a story on article-level pages typically spent little time with the full story.

·          Those who gave the intro paragraphs little time usually spent even less time with the story text.

·          Shorter paragraphs encouraged testers to continue reading.

·          Story text in one-column format was read more extensively than story text presented in a "newspaper-like" multiple-column format.

·          However, subheads increased reading for "skimmers" and for those whose attention in a story was beginning to wane.

·          When readers got to an article-level page, they seemed to be there to view the text. Overall, participants' eyes fixated on the story or other text elements before the accompanying image.

Font Sizes,

·          Smaller font size results in a little more careful viewing of the page.

·          Disparity in font size seems to make a difference between scanning and reading behaviour.

 

To conclude, the optimum way to present a description is by using a small font that is not too different to the title and keep it short and brief in  one-column which both site have done.

 

Fig 15. The Format of the main body

Layoyo.com

Yesasia.com

 

 

 

 

E. English version

 

Referring back to the discussion of culture migration in the literature review, Hong Kong is one of the places that has been heavily influenced by the Western Culture, as Prof. Lee (1995) said in a paper regarding the ‘Chineseness’ in HK, “One of the reasons for this marginalization of local culture is, of course, a result of British colonialist culture. For generations Western culture has been supreme and immediate, and Chinese culture seen only as the old and the distant. But another reason has been the assumption that students must be taught "good" literature, "good" culture which has been almost invariably defined as elite Western usually British culture”.

This paper was written 1995 hence many might question the handover back to China should reverse this Western influence.  However, due to social problems such as political decision making, for example how China blocked a democratic election in Hong Kong BBC news (Monday, 26 April, 2004) and how tourists from China caused problems in HK because of the difference in culture (for example, spitting on the street in China are seen as normal but not in HK), the attitude against Chinese Culture has in fact been increasing.

This is supported by the author’s experience and internet forum comments.  Further obvious evidence includes there are more people learning English privately than ever before and the entertainment world, such as popular actors and actresses are almost certainly the third or forth generation of Chinese from aboard i.e. ABC (American Born Chinese) and BBC (British Born Chinese) or at least have a certain connection to the west. To conclude, the English version of the contents might not have practical use in selling to local market, but it would create a more professional impression, and image are an important factor in gaining trust.

 


F. Use of real photos

This guideline has come after the research by Karvonen (2003), where it identified trustworthy sites tend to use real photos.  However,  based on the informal research from the eBay experiment, there are different ‘definitions’ of real photos, one is where the product is actually filmed (i.e. the packaging and condition of product can be seen), the other one is official photos where most internet shopping site uses as with the two site being inspected here. However, on certain special items yesasia.com would use the product type photos.

Fig. 16 Use of Photos

Yesasia.com

Layayo.com

 

This use of real product photos was supported by the web-design professional where he believed on special items, such as the t-shirt illustrates (where it comes with the CD), products should be shown and this should be extended to other products where appearance is more important then the contents, such as clothes, jewelries etc.  

G. Advertisement (link to external)

Once again, Hong Kong has a low IDV index of 25, as hofstede (2004) mentions “The low Individualism ranking is manifest in a close and committed member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount. A the society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.” Meaning a person in Hong Kong likes to see to be seen in a group i.e. being associated with an already established company would increase the trustworthiness of its sites.

 

 

 

Fig. 16 Advertisement

 

Yesasia.com

Layayo.com

 

 

As shown in figure 16, yesasia.com associate with other bigger and more trustworthy companies whereas Layayo.com promote the companies portfolio of web sites.


7. Conclusion

7.1. Purpose of study restated

This study has reviewed the nature of trust in internet shopping, and how it might be affected by culture and aesthetic factors. The literature forms the basis of an experiment on eBay where two identical items were sold with two different presentation formats.

A checklist completed with guidelines for building a trustworthy site was compiled by combining the literatures in the areas mentioned and previous researches such as Eyetrack III (2003), Karvonen (2003) and Hofstede (1990).

The checklist was used to study two trusted internet shopping site in Hong Kong, by comparing the characteristics of the two sites, it was possible to identify their strategies of gaining trust and whether the two trusted site stratified the points mentioned on the checklist.

7.2 Summary of main points

The literature shows that there are many forms of trust, but in the case of internet shopping, it is whether the customer (trustor) has enough trust in the company (trustee) to overcome the risk considerations in order to use its services. The nature of internet shopping makes trust extremely difficult to gain as it does not provide personal cues as in ‘real’ shopping environment.

Trust is given by the viewer, and a trusting image is also determined by the viewer’s perception. These perceptions include the aesthetic of content representation and whether it provides a familiar shopping environment where it includes usability, feasibility and usability. The judgement in perception is influence by viewer’s cultural influences such as teaching, experiences and other social influence, however the influence changes over time, the change of influence also includes the migration of different cultures as shown with the UK example in section 2

 

Both the preliminary research – the eBay experiment and the primary research have indeed proved that buyers prefer to buy from a “better looking” site and culture identifiers such as currency conversion and language location also play an important role, meaning the two studied sites satisfy the checklist and at the same time validate the accuracy of the guideline. Although the checklist was designed purposely for Hong Kong culture, it can easily be adapted for other uses.

 

 

7.3 Weakness of study

Due to the restrictions of time constraints, the unstructured interviews were not conducted on a wider scale and were not analysed in a formal manner. This was a major setback in discovering roles of trust and the influences of trust. Having said this, the informal interview allows causal conversation between researcher and the interviewees which would not occur otherwise.

The comparative research would have achieved a better result and further validate the checklist if it had included a negative sample (a not trustworthy site).

7.4 Suggestion for further research

*          The effects of aesthetic were studied to a certain degree in this dissertation, but a practical and detail framework has not yet been developed. Future research might be able to develop these idea further, identifying detailed aspects such as the combination of colours and position of photographs.

 

*          Despite oppositions from other academics on its usefulness on web design, the author of this dissertation believed Hofstede’s study has shown the differences and importance of recognizing different culture. Marcus & Gould’s study has successfully shown how culture has affected online publication on certain website. However, the study was done in year 2000: the author of this report believes it can be considered as out of date in this information era, and the study is somewhat based on proving the correctness of Hofstede’s work. A new study together with the attitude of the ‘iGeneration’ as well as the difference in non-standard grouping (as mentioned in section 2) is long over due.

 

*          As shown in the literature, long-term trust is the goal of any trust gaining process. As a result the factors might effect change during different stages of the transaction, such as whether third party trust affects the trust relationship between the trustor and trustee, i.e. the shipping process. Further research on any aspect of trust will not doubt help accelerate the growth of all sections of e-commerce.

 


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posted @ 9/30/2004 3:45 PM by Alex Wong

Catch-up

Since I have already gone through a few inteviews, the next few posts will contain a summary of my experiences till date.

posted @ 7/30/2004 10:54 AM by Shamik Shah

Hiya World!!!!

My search for a new job has been going on for sometime now. In the beginning it was just sending out applications without getting any responses. Things finally began to look up and I started to get some positive responses and a couple of interview calls. In preparing for the interviews I got a lot of information from personal blogs maintained by other people. As a way of giving back to the community and to maintain a diary of my experiences I decided to blog my experiences on the web.

To all the people who read this, I hope you find the information useful and best of luck :)

 

 

posted @ 7/29/2004 12:42 PM by Shamik Shah

2nd round

Hi all, sorry for the hiatus. preparing for the second round of hell. just got over and thought that I should enter the questions before I forget. 1. Background
2. Strengths & Weaknesses
3. Career goals
4. Given an array of integers (each repeating even number of times except one), find the one repeating odd number of times.
There you have it. All that was asked to me. I hope you find it usefull. BOL.

posted @ 7/27/2004 4:09 PM by Sachin

Day 3

Title

Is culture and aesthetic the main factor affecting trust on a multilingual e-commerce site?

 

Aim and objective

Although many research has been done on how to gain trust on e-commerce sites, but the aim of this research is focusing on the non-native English speaking users, whether two design factors – culture and aesthetic has more affect on trust on a multilingual e-commerce site that a English based e–commerce site. The researcher of this dissertation believes that more than language translation is needed to build trustworthy multilingual e-commerce site. This view is also supported by He (2001),

"Language can be translated, but may not be correctly understood if it is not in the appropriate cultural context. Therefore, a language translation without an appropriate adaptation to its culture would be resulted in either misinformation or failure in communication."

The objective of this research is to produce a framework on how to uncover practical consideration on different cultural and aesthetic factors ( i.e. A framework on how to generate the list of the consideration), example on using the framework will also be include.

Research Question

Apart from answer the principal question, "Is culture and aesthetic the major factor affecting trust on a multilingual e-commerce site", other relevant question may arise, as the research is phenomenological.

But in order to focus on design factors on multilingual site, the technical, operational and third party involvement of the e-commerce site is disregarded in this research.

 

Hypothesis

In order to answer the research question, the following hypothesis is decided.

  1. Same aesthetic factor are seen differently in different Culture.
  2. Bad translation has negative trust effect on the multilingual site (Some English are better left un-translate.)
  3. International domain extension or Local domain extension (e.g. .com or co.uk) has no effect on trust.


Reading papers on aesthetic factors

The beauty of simplicity

Kristiina Karvonen November 2000

Theory and models for creating engaging and immersive ecommerce Websites

Morgan Jennings

Understanding the seductive experience

Julie Khaslavsky, Nathan Shedroff

 

posted @ 7/20/2004 3:57 PM by Alex Wong

interview details

let me log them now before I forget. it could probably help somebody. introduction
background
design a restaurant reservation system
test equality of two binary trees
missing number in a continuous range of 1 - 10000
find a duplicate character in a string
print output given a piece of code. - wanted to test knowledge of fork() function. it beings a new process from where it currently resides.
any questions that I may have.
there it is. the results of my 6 days of hard work. looking back it appears that I did not need to put it that much effort but i guess I couldnt have answered all of them if i had not prepared. the pain, sweat, lack of sleep was worth it. waiting to hear from them. keeping my fingers crossed.

posted @ 7/16/2004 10:19 AM by Sachin

D-day!

today is my interview. anxiety levels havent changed since I first heard of this interview. still nervous ! apurva is feeling the pressure too. he shares my room in the office. driving him nuts with my constant jitterness. but he is cool. understands how important this is to me. will stand by me through thick and thin.

posted @ 7/16/2004 10:15 AM by Sachin

nervous as hell !

just learned that I have an interview with Amazon ( my dream company) and all hell has broken loose. heard that technical interviews can get really hard. lets face it - there is enough computer science floating in the world that there is no way one could know all. more often the interview becomes an excercise to prove that the interviewer is so much smarted than the interviewee. why do they do that ? dont they remember their own times when they were on the other side of the table. has it been that long ago that they loose touch with their past ! in any case all I got to know that I have to prepare for this . giving it my best shot . thats what the Gita taught me ( and I am sure a lot of other cultures/religions) work hard and pay little attention to the results. do what you can do and leave the rest to what others can do. so with that in mind I have decided to jump in.

posted @ 7/16/2004 10:11 AM by Sachin

Day 2 - literature review on trust....

Literature review

Trust in relation to e-commerce

Trust is needed whenever there is interaction between parties of two or more, and it is also a fundamental requirement of economic activity. Many different definition of trust has been descried in many fields. Rather then restating all these definition, this section will specific described trust related to e-commerce.

According to Rutter(2001), trust has very little relationship to technical security. As he mentions, "trust is not something that can be offered to technologies regardless of how artificially intelligent or interactive they may appear. Trust is a good traded between individuals rather than between people and mediating technologies."

The Oxford dictionary defined trust as "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something; the state of being responsible for someone or something." This definition is referring the direct relationship, where Clark(2000) define it as the most effective trust, often it is build based on past experience whereas image of trustworthiness in the lease effective. Referring it to business, it is whether the consumer believe in the competence of the service provider can adequately satisfied the expectation. In traditional shopping, the trust relationship can be build based on giving customer visual clues such as the sizes and lay out of the store, and interaction between staff as customer can apply past experience to the judgement.

In business that requires higher trust, it can be refer as "credit given, especially delivery of property or merchandise is upon future payment, or exchange without immediate receipt of an equivalent; selling or buying by trust" - Webster's 1913 Dictionary, which is what Internet shopping required as it is more difficult to promote risk taking from the consumer than ‘real’ shopping, as the trading stretches over spaces and time of which payment and personal information are also required before the receipt of the goods. Hence, the customer (trustor) has to have enough trust in the company (trustee) to overcome the risk considerations in order to uses its services. In other words, trust is a decision factor on whether to make that purchase. This views is also suggested by Grabner-Kraeuter (2002) where he said, "Having only limited cognitive resources available, consumers seek to reduce the uncertainty and complexity of transactions in electronic markets by applying mental shortcuts. One effective mental shortcut is trust". To be more precise, it is whether the customer can risk believing in the company fulfilling the order on time, provide security of information and customer support.

Many research was done on how to gain cognitive trust, such as trust seals, whereas Riegelsberger (2003) suggested human trust decisions are also based on affective reactions, which can be triggered by interpersonal cues. One interpersonal cue he was investigating was the use of photographs where Fogg (2002) found that photos accompanying on-line articles can increase their credibility. Hence usability plays a important role in gaining trust as confirmed by Lanford (2004) where he also suggest design guideline in trustworthiness, Kim (2003) also suggested a framework explaining the subsequent relationships of trust and satisfaction (trust? satisfaction? post-trust? long-term trust) where long-term trust is the goal of the framework and it depends on the post-purchase process (i.e. trustworthiness) rather than the first-time use.

Culture differences on the web

Hofstede (1990) published a research on culture difference with different countries where the he listed five dimension of culture as follows,

  • Power-distance
  • Collectivism vs. individualism
  • Femininity vs. masculinity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Long- vs. short-term orientation

A article by Marcus & Gould (2000)has explain it detail with regarding the five dimension to web design.

Although Hofstede’s research was published over a decade ago, the internet are still English dominated today. A study by global-reach indicated that up until March,2004, 64.2% of internet users are not native English speaker. The Language barrier poses great difficulties for these users, although this problem has been addressed in the recent years, and many site has produced multilingual versions of their site, but as point out In The Times of London (Apr. 20, 2000), an article entitled "Are We All Speaking the Same Language?" reports "many companies that elect to rely purely on a Web site to trade internationally are failing to take linguistic and cultural differences sufficiently into account." Meaning multilingual site are more that just translating the content, as pointed out by He (2001) "Language can be

translated, but may not be correctly understood if it is not in the appropriate cultural context."

A better understanding of how cultural differences may affect consumer evaluations of websites may help the design of multilingual website, it can be seem as similar to the interpersonal clues as mentioned in the pervious section. A number of research relating culture and web design was done in the recent years. A project by Barber and Badre (1998) which aims to understand the relationship between culture and usability has produced a list of cultural markers of web designs, whereas a more recent study by Chau, Cole, Massey, Montoya-Weiss, O'Keefe (2002) said "consumer interfaces targeted to different countries/cultures may not need to be completely different from each other, but there must be some features that allow the targeted audience to feel at home." The results from Simon (2001) study also confirms that there are indeed differences between cultural and gender-based perception and satisfaction with websites.

Furthermore, referring back to Lanford (2004)’s article, although culture was not mention in the article, but the guidelines he suggested on building trustworthiness can be seen as culture related.

- Fulfil the customer’s expectations,

- Let the user feel in control,

- Put consumer interests above your own,

- Build a good reputation, i.e., not just real but also perceived trustworthiness,

- Consider moving certain risky actions to third party.

posted @ 7/13/2004 2:05 PM by Alex Wong

Day one - Literature review

Today's Objective: Read research papers relating to culture and web design

Cross-cultural usability is about making websites an effective means of communication between a global website owner and a local user.


Title: Crosscurrent: Cultural dimensions and global Web user-interface design

By: Aaron Marcus, Emilie West Gould  (ACM)

Notes:

- Hofstede's Dimensions of Culture; Country rating index

  • Power-distance

    university example - High PD, emphasis on leaders. Low PD, emphasis on student  

  • Collectivism  vs. individualism

    Indivdualism - (look after one's self or immediate family but no one else)

    Collectivism - (people are integrated from birth into strong, cohesive groups that protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty)

  • Femininity vs. masculinity

    High-masculinity cultures would focus on the following user-interface and design elements:

    • Traditional gender/family/age distinctions.
    • Work tasks, roles, and mastery, with quick results for limited tasks.
    • Navigation oriented to exploration and control.
    • Attention gained through games and competitions.
    • Graphics, sound, and animation used for utilitarian purposes.

    Feminine cultures would emphasize the following user-interface elements:

    • Blurring of gender roles.
    • Mutual cooperation, exchange, and support, (rather than mastery and winning).
    • Attention gained through poetry, visual aesthetics, and appeals to unifying values.
  • Uncertainty avoidance

    Based on this definition, we believe uncertainty avoidance may influence contrary aspects of user-interface and Web design. High-UA cultures would emphasize the following:

    • Simplicity, with clear metaphors, limited choices, and restricted amounts of data.
    • Attempts to reveal or forecast the results or implications of actions before users act.
    • Navigation schemes intended to prevent users from becoming lost.
    • Mental models and help systems that focus on reducing "user errors."
    • Redundant cues (color, typography, sound, etc.) to reduce ambiguity.

    Low UA cultures would emphasize the reverse:

    • Complexity with maximal content and choices.
    • Acceptance (even encouragement) of wandering and risk, with a stigma on "over-protection."
    • Less control of navigation; for example, links might open new windows leading away from the original location.
    • Mental models and help systems might focus on understanding underlying concepts rather than narrow tasks.
    • Coding of color, typography, and sound to maximize information (multiple links without redundant cueing).
  • Long- vs. short-term orientation

    Based on this definition, high LT countries would emphasize the following aspects of user-interface design:

    • Content focused on practice and practical value.
    • Relationships as a source of information and credibility.
    • Patience in achieving results and goals.

    Low LT countries would emphasize the contrary:

    • Content focused on truth and certainty of beliefs.
    • Rules as a source of information and credibility.
    • Desire for immediate results and achievement of goals.


    Title:Cultual difference in the online behavior of consumers 

    By: Patrick Y.K. Chau, Melissa Cole, Anne P. Massey, Mitzi Montoya-Weiss, Robert M. O'Keefe (ACM)

    Notes:

    Recent WVTM survey shows demographics alone are not important in terms of buying online. Instead, the study found that a wired lifestyle (measured by months/years of Internet experience, what is being bought and why) is crucial to Internet shopping. In particular, the most important predictor of online buying behavior was product information search. If this applies to consumers from different countries, then the extent to which consumers in different parts of the world use the Internet to search for product information may become a key determinant of the transaction volume of consumer e-commerce.

    This study proves the online behaviors of consumers un HK and U.S. are subtlety different in nature from traditional consumer behavior due to the unique characteristics and interplay of technology and culture.


    Title: A process model for developing usable cross-cultural websites

    By: Andy Smith, Lynne Dunckley, Tim French, Shailey Minocha and Yu Chang

  • Interacting with Computers
    Volume 16, Issue 1 , February 2004, Pages 63-91

    Global Human Computer Systems:Cultural Determinants in Usability

    Notes:

    The concept of cultural attractors to define the interface design elements of the website that reflect the signs and their meanings to match the expectations of the local culture

    The cultural attractors typically comprise of: colours, colour combinations, banner adverts, trust signs, use of metaphor, language cues, navigation controls and similar visual elements that together create a ‘look and feel’ to match the cultural expectations of the users for that particular domain

     

    posted @ 7/8/2004 12:53 PM by Alex Wong

    Handout Outline PLEASE ADD YOUR TOPICS!!

    Title

     

    Introduction~ by Cory Blogett

     -    visual water demonstration

    -         summary of main points

     

    Part Two: Water Past and Present~ by Serina

     

     

     PLEASE ADD YOUR PARTS! Change what needs to be changed

     

    Part Three: Present Initiatives for the Conservation and Cleansing of Water~ by Mary McQuaid

    -         recent approval of 4 million dollar grant for water conservation in the US

    -         United Nations Millenium Declaration

    -         Living up to the Millenium Declaration challenge

     

    Part Four: The Future of Water in Our World~ by TD MacDonald and Erin Blaikie

     

     

     

    Conclusion~ by Cory Blogett

     

     

     

    posted @ 6/25/2004 12:19 AM by Team Duct Tape

    Mary's Stuff - posted for Erin's sanity

    Since so many countries are lacking in water, programs and committies have naturally been created to help deal with this problem. These vary from local community groups to large national and international initiatives.

                One example of a national initiative is US Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s recent approval of more than four million dollars in water conservation grants. These grants are for 19 different projects in ten different states, and these projects promote things like using new water technology and removing institutional barriers to increase cooperation and collaboration between federal, state, tribal and private organizations. The projects will help reduce the amount of water lost due to inefficient or worn out water systems.

    Another big organization that is trying to help deal with the shortage of available water is the United Nations. This organization was created in 1945 with the goal of creating a better future for our world. As you probably know, it is concerned with many other problems in addition to water, but it has never the less taken the time to address this issue in its Millenium Declaration. In this declaration, the UN appeals to all countries "to halve by the year 2015 (...) the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water" and "to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources, by developing water management strategies at the regional, national and local levels, which promote both equitable access and adequate supply".

                Several organizations that are trying to live up to the water challenge set by the millennium Declaration, including the World Water Assesment Program and the Water Sanitation Program.

                The World Water Assessment is trying to meet the challenge by researching water extensively, to help in more informed decisions about the management of water.

                The Water Sanitation Program however, is more of a humanitarian organization. It’s actually a collaboration between The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program to examine cost effective technologies and models that would provide the poor of the world with safe water and sanitation.

                Most of the programs that we have to date are helping to improve our current situation. However, if the current trends continue, these programs might not be enough. DT will now discuss with you how water troubles might affect our world in the future.

    posted @ 6/24/2004 11:05 PM by Team Duct Tape

    pictures

    Alright, here are some interesting pictures. There's one in particular, or African women carrying water from the river on their heads, that could really illstrate well how water was obtained in the past. I think there's also a few pictures of sad little children.

    posted @ 6/24/2004 3:27 PM by Team Duct Tape

    Some info on my part

    Water

     

    Past, what water was used for, Present what has it become and why?

     

    Past

     

     

    • We used less water
    • Less water pollution
    • Smaller population
    •  

     

    Present

     

    • We use more water for impractical uses ( golf courses, washing cars, etc) While in some countries people have to drink contaminated water because of lack of water
    • Pollution is threatening our limited water resources and in countries people are forced to drink polluted water, causing illness and death
    • Every 15 seconds a child dies from drinking contaminated water
    • With climate change, the number of droughts have increased
    • Some countries lock up water supplies and deny people their right to water
    • Some governments haven’t made up regulations regarding water management
    • 31 countries face water scarcity and stress
    • One billion lack access to fresh and clean water to drink
    • Global demand of water has risen 6 times from 1900 to 1995
    • Rivers and lakes are shrinking
    • Great amounts of waste from agricultural use
    • 80% of marine pollution is affected by land pollution, there fore rivers
    • Worst affected countries are middle east and Africa
    • We cannot replace water

     

     

     

    Bibliography

     

     

    http://www.slemishcollege.org.uk/Water%20resources.gif

    http://www.un.org/Pubs/CyberSchoolBus/bookstor/images/waterpol.gif

    http://images.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=www.swales.wea.org.uk/myweb4/images/env%2520agency%2520world%2520water.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.swales.wea.org.uk/myweb4/water%2520crisis.htm&h=227&w=416&sz=9&tbnid=QIW4Rd4KicUJ:&tbnh=66&tbnw=120&start=8&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dpolluted%2Bwater%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8

    http://www.unesco.org/science/waterday2000/Brochure.htm

    http://www.newint.org/issue354/facts.html

     

    ~ Serena

     

    posted @ 6/24/2004 3:24 PM by Team Duct Tape

    pictures

    Alright, here are some interesting pictures. There's one in particular, or African women carrying water from the river on their heads, that could really illstrate well how water was obtained in the past. I think there's also a few pictures of sad little children. Here's the adress: http://www.unesco.org/water/ihp/ihp_six.shtml

    posted @ 6/24/2004 2:12 PM by Team Duct Tape

    intro-please edit- thanks

    Can you imagine complaining about the rising cost of water? Could you afford to pay a fee every time you turn on the tap? This might become a reality within our lifetimes. Fresh water is rapidly disappearing and may soon become an expensive commodity. Unless we do something about it, this precious resource may become scarce. If this were to happen, water; the most basic human need, could become impossible for some people to obtain. We must utilize new technologies and adjust our social systems to ensure that everyone can get access to clean, drinkable water.

     

    Water Model

    97.24-salt water                                        14.8 liters

    2.14-frozen water

    .32-inaccessable fresh water

    .3- fresh water                                           .04048 liters

    .26- clean, drinkable fresh water                .03848 liters

     

    As you can see, we are left with a very small amount of water that can be used by humans. And as Serina will discuss, an increase in population will only worsen the problem. A number of programs already exist that are designed to help combat the growing problem which Mary will expound on. But even these programs are not enough, Privatization is slowly taking over the water industry, so we will have to work hard to develop new technologies that make fresh water more accessable to the public. TD will tell you more about that.  Now i'll turn it over to serina who can tell you more about how we came into out current situation.

    posted @ 6/24/2004 1:32 PM by Team Duct Tape

    Etc.

    Mary's outline looks really good.  I've just reviewed the schedule, and we have basically no time to work on our case studies.  In fact, we're supposed to practice the presentation tonight!  Try to get as much work done today as possible whenever you can squeeze it in.. as I understand it, Cory is doing the introduction, Serena and TD are doing the “Present” Section, I'm doing the “Future” section, and Mary is either working with me or with Serena and TD.  Please correct me if I'm wrong!

    ~ Erin

    posted @ 6/24/2004 7:43 AM by Team Duct Tape

    Further outlining

    While I was on the bus today, I tried to come up with a sort of outline for this, and here's what I came up with:

    INTRO

    A. thought provoking question

    B. Water bottle visual demonstration  (don't forget to explain briefly how come we can't drink the water (so baisically salt, pollution, etc), and how the water got that way (at least for the pollution part)).

    C. Briefly say what the projections for the future are

    D. Thesis statement. A possible one that I came up with was:

    “Drinkable water is rapidly disappearing and becoming a highly valued commodity. To avoid an international water crisis, we must either find a way to effectively replenish our supply, or develop an efficient system for its distribution.”

    The first sentence isn't really necessary, but we can put it in if we haven't already mentioned it.

    PART ONE- WATER PAST AND PRESENT

    A. How and where water was obtained in the past and what it was used for

    B. How and where water is obtained today and what it's used for, how this differs from past ways, and why there are differences (ex: what changes occurred to create these differences)

    C. What programs are presently in place to deal with water scarcity.

    PART TWO- THE FUTURE OF WATER

    (Try to fit in the definition of scarcity somewhere)

    A. Ways to augement the amount of available fresh water

          I. Cleaning polluted water (distillation, flitration, etc...)

          II. Making water (do we have the technology, how much energy would it require, would it be efficient and practical?)

    B. Ways to distribute water

         I. Don't do anything, just let things evolve on their own (countries charging for water, water wars, etc.)

        II. Water goes to the highest bidder, or at least has a charge (problem: right to life, right to water).

        III. Creating and enforcing international laws/policies to make sure that countries don't charge for water, but do distribute it equally and fairly to all citizens.

        IV. Distribute by status

        V. By luck ( have lotteries? To see who gets the most?).

    Anyway, tell me what you think when we have group time to work on our case studies later. I'm not really sure what everyone was thinking, so tell me if I'm completely off track.

    -Mary

    posted @ 6/23/2004 5:29 PM by Team Duct Tape

    Our Outline So Far...

    Outline

     

    Introduction – The Past

     

    • Illustration – the water jug
    • How water has been polluted
    • Why water scarcity has been a problem
    • Can you imagine spending $10 or more every time you turn on the tap?
    • Can you imagine complaining about the rising costs of water?
    • Prove that water is a rapidly vanishing commodity and if current trends continue, there will soon be no viable drinking water left.

     

     

    The Present – Current Water Situation

     

    • Describe current water trends
    • What’s wrong with the water we have now
    • 13, 000 people die daily from problems with their drinking water
    • Disappearing commodity
    • Unless we create programs to reverse the damage and conserve what we still have soon, we will be faced with an international water crisis

    posted @ 6/22/2004 11:06 PM by Team Duct Tape

    Water Stats and Salt Water Conversion

    Check this site out for some good info...

    http://www.eco-web.com/cgi-local/sfc?a=/editorial/index.html&b=/editorial/02090.html

    ~ Erin

    posted @ 6/22/2004 10:02 PM by Team Duct Tape

    Points to Research

    Here are some ideas for points to research:

    ~ Development versus conservation

    ~ Water technologies - manufacturing water

    ~ The international market for fresh water

    ~ Political and socioeconomical aspects of water resources

    ~ Effects of big business on water supply

    ~ What sort of water conservation policies are in place already?  Where?  How effective are they?

    ~ Will a resource crisis lead to war?

    ~ Mutual coercion - will this be a possible solution to the water crisis? (Examine Garrett Harden's theory taken from The Tragedy of the Commons)

    ~ Water crisis in the Mideast

    Post more ideas as they come to you..

    ~ Erin

    posted @ 6/22/2004 9:33 AM by Team Duct Tape

    Is Requirements Management a technical activity or managerial aspects ??

     

    An action research studies have concluded that the initial requirements for projects are too often incomplete, not validated by their end-users and that they were not really intelligible to the users. The Requirements Engineering Process and particularly the elicitation process was at the source of the problems and requirements checklists and a user scenario template are designed, tested and included in the formal methodology to mitigate it.  However .....

    The real challenge of enforcing the Requirements Management policy now becomes a responsibility of project managers with the support of the high-level management for its institutionalisation.

    The initial investigations indicated that the main obstacle to requirements control was the initial system specification produced at the feasibility phase of development. The quality of the initial requirements in this specification was insufficient to allow for the management of small changes to requirements later on during the projects.

    Some major findings are that

    1. Most projects are time-boxed and the requirements provided by the customer are often incomplete, unclear and leave questions unanswered;
    2. The required functionality is presented on a detailed event basis. Functional requirements pertaining to each business transaction or from the overall user’s point of view are missing;
    3. The underlying business processes are poorly described and, consequently, are frequently not well understood by development teams;
    4. The users do not validate the requirements produced, leaving major defects in the requirements that could have been found right at the beginning;
    5. The risks inherent to poor requirements are not fully assessed and addressed.


    The root-causes for these problems are:

    • The internal methodology does not prescribe a specific requirements elicitation process* nor does it promote user interface prototyping to clarify unclear requirements;
    • The requirements documents prepared by the customer are full of technical details (solution instead of problem-oriented description) but fail to adequately describe the changes done to business processes and the users’ point of view;
    • No quality criteria are provided to review and assess the quality of documents produced by either the customer or the supplier;


    The consequences of these problems are:

    1. At the design phase, the requirements are often reworked instead of refined;
    2. System and validation testing generates a high percentage of enhancement requests;
    3. Target budgets and schedules for complete customer satisfaction are not always met.

    Cases demonstrate that when there are Requirements Management problems, it is important to look at both sides of the problems, the technical and the managerial aspects. Doing root-cause analysis on the technical aspects is not difficult when there is a will to change the situation. The root-causes can be brought to light and process improvements identified. But the institutionalisation of the technical changes, when they mean changing the organisation culture of companies, cannot be taken for granted. Considerable effort will be needed in order to get the business to business relationship adapted to the new context and these changes can not be left to the project managers alone. They should get the support of the entire management team and the evolution of the process should be monitored regularly.

     

    posted @ 5/4/2004 1:57 PM by Indranil Nath

    Is Software Requirements Development as Corporate Asset ?

     

    Much work has been done over the past 30 years on why and how a large proportion of systems fail to achieve their “Raison d'être”. Sometimes they are abandoned before the project is finished, or the system is developed, but the customer fail to use it because it does not meet their requirements. The system may conform to its original SRS, and still be a failure if it does not do what the customer needs it to do.

     

    The most common cause of not getting the requirements right is the existence of a cultural gap between developers and customer. These differences result in poor or inhibited communication between the stakeholders in the requirements gathering process, leading to an incomplete or poorly defined statement of user requirements. Systems subsequently developed using such an SRS is unlikely to meet the user's needs and will in all likelihood be abandoned or need to be substantially reworked.

     

    The need for IT developers and users to collaborate has long been recognized by both the practitioner and academic worlds. A wide range of what might be called integrative processes has been developed to promote a collaborative approach to requirements analysis. These integrative processes include the ETHICS model for participative systems development, Joint Application Development and the use of particular people as integrators, such as the 'hybrid manager'. Where used, integrative processes are successful in improving the level of collaboration and effective communication between suppliers and customers.

     

    But despite their effectiveness in solving a widely recognized, highly expensive problem, in reality integrative processes are not generally used. In practice, they are seen as expensive, time-consuming and a threat to established ways of developing software. Tight project budgets and schedules put most integrative processes into the 'nice to have in an ideal world' category.

     

    It is now important to explore the role of requirements development in various life cycle methodologies and show how Requirements development can be a methodology tightly tied with the software development life-cycle particularly followed in the organization.

     

    A proven integrative process that is customized for the specific life-cycle can substantially improve the chances of achieving successful project outcomes. A technical writer, who is already a member of the software development team, should take responsibility for the writing of the SRS. This is likely to be welcomed by the software engineers who would otherwise have to do it themselves. Technical writer's are usually able to understand both the technical point of view of the supplier, and the non-technical view of the customer/user, and as such can bridge the cultural divide. This suits them to act as a facilitator of communication between supplier and customer. If an appropriate template is used to develop the SRS, it will be possible for a complete, correct, verifiable etc SRS to be developed, and this most dangerous of pitfalls for any development project to be avoided.

    posted @ 5/3/2004 12:08 AM by Indranil Nath