The Impact of Culture on Web Design

Margarita Ivanchikova

The Impact of Culture on Web Design

The Impact of Culture on Web Design.

Case Study: Belgium and Russia

Culture determines everything we do. It is a software of our minds (The Hofstede Centre). Our own values, judgements and decisions are influenced by the conditions we are raised in, our parents and society. Members of different cultures face the same troubles and challenges in their life. What differs is the way they solve the problems and pursue their goals (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 6, Csikszentmihalyi 78). The difference of the approaches affects the products. The notion of a convenient clothes or a good food can vary from country to country. In addition, effective advertisements have to be adapted when used in different social contexts (de Mooij).

What about web design? Do web sites bear any specific treats of the country of their origin? The distinction is visible when comparing web sites from countries with exotic tastes with each other. For example, comparison the home pages of Chinese ( and Russian ( news portals shows the difference of text-oriented and image-oriented approaches. However, if the differences are not so obvious, they also can be important.

The case study of the present research includes samples of Russian and Belgian web design. The first step was to compare the two cultures. It has been performed from the positions of the three theories by Hofstede, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, and Edward Hall. The researchers propose a number of criteria for making the comparison in the objective way. By Hofstede, the main differences lay in the dimensions of power distance, individualism, masculinity and indulgence. According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, Russia and Belgium differ by universalism and locus control features. In the terms of the concept of Edward Hall, Belgium and Russia, have the opposite low- and high-context cultures. Even though the majority of the features of web design has to obey the same rules, they coexist with a big space open to experiments and diversity.

The second practical step includes the analysis of 100 web sites. Web design of the two cultures is represented by 50 samples on each side compared by a number of criteria including the general overview, structure, navigation, layout and content features inherent to the two countries. The studied web sites belong to city governments of Belgium and Russia. This case study has been chosen because of its independence from a single person’s preferences, marketing, advertisement or international cooperation. In fact, it represents regionally based local organization.

The results has shown:

·      In general, Russians prefer a city web site to be more formal and to use coat of arms as an emblem because of the high level of power distance.

·      The same reason explains why their city web sites sometimes display photograph of a mayor on a home page. This feature is not likely to be found on Belgian city web sites.

·      Belgians more often present links to social network accounts of the cities because of the low power distance level.

·      Furthermore, Russian web sites are executed in the same language by default because of collectivistic nature of the culture. 

·      Belgians are more eager to register a personal account on a city web site because of the individualistic features of the culture.

·      Belgian universalism explains the prevalence of fixed-width web sites, while Russians prefer liquid width.

·      Russians more often use drop-down menus because they are members of a high-context society.

·      They also favor illustrated menus more because of the femininity of the culture.

·      Belgians more often display photos of smiling faces, leisure, art and sport scenes because of the high level of indulgence in the culture.

So far, there have been found a connection between culture and web design.

The final part of the research was aimed on qualitative approval of the patterns found during the previous steps. It started with creation of the two templates representing the collective image of typical city web sites of Belgium and Russia based on the statistical results of the previous analysis. Then, the templates were assessed with the help of eight interviews, taking four respondents from each culture. The age of the interviewees ranged between 21 and 51 years. The interviewed people were from Roeselare, Leuven, Antwerpen, and Brugge in Belgium and from Saint Petersburg and Petrozadovsk in Russia. Their occupation ranged from the unemployed and students to accountants, event manager, software developer and city guide. The interviews have shown that Belgians and Russians express different opinions of what a proper city web site should look like. The expectations and preferences of members of the two cultures correlate with the findings of the case study analysis and prove the sustainability of the discovered patterns.

In summary, the question of the dependence of web design dependence on culture features was observed in the present paper. It has shown some implications of cultural diversity in web design. However, the ways in which culture influences human practices cannot be exhaustively explained. The questions about culture cannot be simply answered and there is always a space for further explorations. In general, the understanding of cultural diversity is a very important issue in contemporary situation of globalization and international business growth. Knowing basic rules about user expectations can help people creating and adapting convenient web interfaces for different target groups.

List of References

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York Harper Perennial, 1990. Print.

de Mooij, Marieke. “Masculinity/Femininity and consumer behavior.” Masculinity and Femininity: The Taboo Dimension in National Cultures. Ed. Geert Hofstede. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1998. 55-73. Print.

Hall, Edward T. Beyond Culture. Herdr. Garden City Anchor, 1981. Print.

Trompenaars, Fons, and Charles M. Hampden-Turner. Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. Rev. repr. London Brealey, 1999. Print.

Web sites

Chinese news web site Sina. Mode access: (04.2015)

Russian news web site Meduza. Mode access: (04.2015)

The Hofstede Centre. Mode access: (04.2015)



Binder, Jean. Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders. Gower Publishing, Ltd., 2012. Print.

Bryan, Christiansen. Handbook of Research on Global Business Opportunities. IGI Global, 2014. Print.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York Harper Perennial, 1990. Print.

Hall, Edward T. Beyond Culture. Herdr. Garden City Anchor, 1981. Print.

Heckel, Paul. The Elements of Friendly Software Design. San Francisco: Sybex Inc, 1994. Print.

Hesmondhalgh, David. The Cultural Industries. Third Edition edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2012. Print.

Hofstede, Geert H., Gert Jan Hofstede, and Mikhail Minkov. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind : Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival. 3rd ed. New York McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.

Hunt, Ben. Save the Pixel the Art of Simple Web Design. [S.l.]: Scratch Publishing Ltd, 2008. Print.

---. Web Design Is Dead. 1st ed. Ben Hunt, 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. 2 edition. New Riders, 2009. Print.

Laurel, Brenda. Computers as Theatre. 11th pr. Boston Addison-Wesley, 2004. Print.

Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. Garden City Doubleday, 1988. Print.

Trompenaars, Fons, and Charles M. Hampden-Turner. Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. Rev. repr. London Brealey, 1999. Print.

Victor, David A. International Business Communication. HarperCollins, 1992. Print.

Veith, Richard H. Visual Information Systems: The Power of Graphics and Video. large type edition edition. Boston, Mass: G K Hall, 1988. Print.

Warner, Malcolm, and Pat Joynt. Managing Across Cultures: Issues and Perspectives. 2 edition. London: Cengage Learning EMEA, 2001. Print.

Journal Articles

Badre, Albert. “The effects of cross cultural interface design orientation on world wide web user performance.” GVE Research Technical Reports (2000). Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Barber, Wendy and Albert Badre. “Culturability: The merging of culture and usability.” Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Human Factors and the Web (1998). Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Butgel, Burcu. “Cultural Differences in Color Processing.” N.p. (2014). Web. 15 May 2015.

Cingi, Can Cemal. “The Role of Culture in Communication: How Cultures Influence the Way People Perceive Information.” N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Cyr, Dianne, and Haizley Trevor‐smith. “Localization of Web Design: An Empirical Comparison of German, Japanese, and United States Web Site Characteristics.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 55.13 (2004): 1199–1208. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

de Mooij, Marieke. “Masculinity/Femininity and consumer behavior.” Masculinity and Femininity: The Taboo Dimension in National Cultures. Ed. Geert Hofstede. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1998. 55-73. Print.

Grossmann, Igor, Phoebe C. Ellsworth, and Ying-Yi Hong. “Culture, Attention, and Emotion.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 141.1 (2012): 31–36. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Gvosdev, Nikolas K. “Russia: ‘European But Not Western?’” Orbis 51.1 (2007): 129–140. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Marcus, Aaron and Emilie West Gould. “Crosscurrents: Cultural Dimensions and Global Web User-Interface Design.” Interactions 7.4 (2000): 32–46. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Simon, Steven John. “The Impact of Culture and Gender on Web Sites: An Empirical Study.” Data Base for Advances in Information Systems 32.1 (2001): 18–37. Print.


Web Site Articles

Belicove, Mikal E. How to Create a Multilingual Web site. Entrepreneur, 2012. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Dumetz, Jérôme. Communication within the Russian business culture: Mind the context! Goinglobal. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Page Structure. Web Style Guide, 3rd Edition, 2011. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Markelov, Andrei. Русский веб-дизайн[1]. Love Media studio blog, 2014. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Ruluks, Sandijs. A brief history of web design for designers. Froont open design blog, 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. Mode access:

Supraner, Lauren. Getting Angry at Work: Affective and Neutral Cultures. Cal Learning blog, 2010. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:…

The Seven Dimensions of Culture: Understanding and Managing Cultural Differences. Mind Tools, 2015. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Universalism vs. particularism: What is more important, rules or relationships? A Watchmans View, 2011. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:…

Web Design: How Translation Impacts Web site Development. Kwintessential translation company blog, 2013. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:…



Dictionaries/ Encyclopedia (Online)

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary (04.2015)

Course notes

Baetens, Jan. “Case Study Flanders: General Framework.” Cultural Policy. KU Leuven, Leuven, 2014.

Juurikivi, Satu. “Cultural Guidance for Expatriates of Technip Offshore Finland.” Degree Program in Innovative Business Services. Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, 2013. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:…

Cultural Dimensions. Eurochambres Academy. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:

Lecture slides

Smit, Chris. “Cultural awareness.” KU Leuven, Leuven, 2014. Web. 15 May 2015. Mode access:…

Online course

Heileman, Greg. “Web Application Architectures.”, 2015.


Web Sites

The Hofstede Centre. Mode access: (04.2015)

Major Cities in Russia Population 2015. Mode access:… (04.2015)

The largest cities in Belgium, ranked by population (04.2015)


Belgian City Web Sites

Brussels. Mode access: (04.2015)

Antwerpen. Mode access: (04.2015)

Gent. Mode access: (04.2015)

Charleroi. Mode access: (04.2015)

Liège. Mode access: (04.2015)

Brugge. Mode access: (04.2015)

Namur. Mode access: (04.2015)

Leuven. Mode access: (04.2015)

Mons. Mode access: (04.2015)

Aalst. Mode access: (04.2015)

Mechelen. Mode access: (04.2015)

La Louvière. Mode access: (04.2015)

Kortrijk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Hasselt. Mode access: (04.2015)

Oostende. Mode access: (04.2015)

Sint-Niklaas. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tournai. Mode access: (04.2015)

Genk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Seraing. Mode access: (04.2015)

Roeselare. Mode access: (04.2015)

Verviers. Mode access: (04.2015)

Mouscron. Mode access: (04.2015)

Beveren. Mode access: (04.2015)

Dendermonde. Mode access: (04.2015)

Beringen. Mode access: (04.2015)

Turnhout. Mode access: (04.2015)

Dilbeek. Mode access: (04.2015)

Heist-op-den-Berg. Mode access: (04.2015)

Sint-Truiden. Mode access: (04.2015)

Lokeren. Mode access: (04.2015)

Braine-l'Alleud. Mode access: (04.2015)

Brasschaat. Mode access: (04.2015)

Vilvoorde. Mode access: (04.2015)

Herstal. Mode access: (04.2015)

Maasmechelen. Mode access: (04.2015)

Waregem. Mode access: (04.2015)

Châtelet. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ieper. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ninove. Mode access: (04.2015)

Geel. Mode access: (04.2015)

Halle. Mode access: (04.2015)

Knokke-Heist. Mode access: (04.2015)

Schoten. Mode access: (04.2015)

Grimbergen. Mode access: (04.2015)

Lier. Mode access: (04.2015)

Mol. Mode access: (04.2015)

Wavre. Mode access: (04.2015)

Binche. Mode access: (04.2015)

Lommel. Mode access: (04.2015)

Menen. Mode access: (04.2015)


Russian City Web Sites

Moscow. Mode access: (04.2015)

Saint Petersburg. Mode access: (04.2015)

Novosibirsk. Mode access: http://новосибирск.рф (04.2015)

Yekaterinburg. Mode access: http://екатеринбург.рф (04.2015)

Nizhniy Novgorod. Mode access: http://нижнийновгород.рф (04.2015)

Samara. Mode access: (04.2015)

Omsk. Mode access: http://омск.рф (04.2015)

Kazan. Mode access: (04.2015)

Rostov-na-Donu. Mode access: (04.2015)

Chelyabinsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ufa. Mode access: (04.2015)

Volgograd. Mode access: (04.2015)

Perm. Mode access: (04.2015)

Krasnoyarsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Saratov. Mode access: (04.2015)

Voronezh. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tol’yatti. Mode access: (04.2015)

Krasnodar. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ulyanovsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Izhevsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Yaroslavl. Mode access: (04.2015)

Barnaul. Mode access: (04.2015)

Vladivostok. Mode access: (04.2015)

Irkutsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Khabarovsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Orenburg. Mode access: (04.2015)

Novokuznetsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ryazan’. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tyumen. Mode access: (04.2015)

Lipetsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Penza. Mode access: (04.2015)

Naberezhnyye Chelny. Mode access: (04.2015)

Astrakhan’. Mode access: (04.2015)

Makhachkala. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tomsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Kemerovo. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tula. Mode access: (04.2015)

Kirov. Mode access: (04.2015)

Cheboksary. Mode access: (04.2015)

Kaliningrad. Mode access: (04.2015)

Bryansk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Ivanovo. Mode access: (04.2015)

Magnitogorsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Kursk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Tver. Mode access: (04.2015)

Nizhniy Tagil. Mode access: (04.2015)

Stavropol’. Mode access: http://ставрополь.рф (04.2015)

Ulan-Ude. Mode access: (04.2015)

Arkhangel’sk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Belgorod. Mode access: (04.2015)



Adri Leemput, 29 years. Leuven, Belgium. City guide. (A.L.) Questionnaire. 11.05.2015

Anouck Vandewalle, 21 years. Antwerpen, Belgium. Student. (A.V.) Questionnaire. 11.05.2015

Ilya Igorevich Shmarov, 29 years. Petrozavodsk, Russia. Software developer. (I.S.) Skype Interview. 11.05.2015

Jeroen Deforche, 26 years. Brugge, Belgium. Unemployed. (J.D.) Questionnaire. 11.05.2015

Leontien Vanderschelden, 21 years. Roeselare, Belgium. Student. (L.V.) Questionnaire. 11.05.2015

Maria Alexandrovna Sokolova, 27 years. Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Accountant. (M.S.) Questionnaire. 09.05.2015

Tatyana Vasilyevna Kochubeeva, 51 years. Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Chief accountant. (T.K.) Questionnaire. 09.05.2015

Victoria Gennadyevna Petrova, 30 years. Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Event manager. (V.P.) Questionnaire. 09.05.2015


Image Sources

Fig. 1. Chinese news web site Sina. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 2. Russian news web site Meduza. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 4. Web site structure. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 5. What Designers Build… What Users See… Source: Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. 2 edition. New Riders, 2009. Print.

Fig. 6. Home page of pizza delivery web site. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 7. Home page of Michelin restaurant. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 15. Screenshot of the web site of Dilbeek. Source: Web. 15 May 2015.

Fig. 16. Screenshot of the web site of Ieper. Source: Web. 15 May 2015.

Fig. 23. Illustrated menu from the web site of Orenburg, Russia. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 24. Illustrated menu from the web site of Rostov-Na-Donu. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 25. Illustrated menu from the web site of Chelyabinsk. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 26. Illustrated menu from the web site of La Louviere. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 27. Illustrated menu from the web site of Verviers. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 28. Illustrated menu from the web site of Namur. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 30. Icon from illustrated menu from the web site of Omsk. Mode access: http://омск.рф (04.2015)

Fig. 45. Photo of the mayor of Izhevsk, Russia. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 49. Coat of arms of Penza, Russia. Mode access: (04.2015)

Fig. 50. Coat of arms of Stavropol, Russia. Mode access: http://ставрополь.рф (04.2015)

Fig. 51. Logotype of Brussels. Mode access: http:// (04.2015)

[1] Russian web-design


Universiteit of Hogeschool
Cultural Studies
Petrozavodsk State University
Share this on: