The term ‘website localisation’ is often used interchangeably with ‘website translation’. However, whilst translating an existing piece of content from one language to another allows you to communicate with a new audience, you can’t expect that same web page to draw an identical response from two users with different cultural backgrounds. No two cultures are the same, and our personal experiences and biases influence the way that we receive any brand or content. An identical web page for an ecommerce site will not deliver identical conversion rates from users in Brazil and France if the sole difference between the two pages is language.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory
Geert Hofstede’s framework on cultural dimensions theory, published in Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, examines the differences between cultures and how these differences and values influence the way that individuals behave. Cultural values are broken down into 6 dimensions: power distance; individualism vs. collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; masculinity vs. femininity; long-term orientation; and indulgence vs. restraint.
Applying cultural Dimensions to Lainding Page Localisation
Any web page is a potential landing page, and every landing page should have its own goal. What do you hope users will do once they arrive on the landing page? If you want to achieve these goals on localised versions of your website, you need to go further than simply translating the pages. You need to adapt the design and layout of the landing page in accordance with the cultural values of the target user. Let’s use Hofstede’s framework and apply it to the design of a landing page. If we alter a landing page to best fit the target audience, we stand a greater chance of improving our conversion rates for each international user.
Cultral dimensions and Coca-Cola
In the next section of this article, I’ll breakdown the cultural dimensions of Hofstede’s theory and discuss how we can apply them to the design of a landing page. As Coca-Cola is one of the biggest brands in the world, I’ll also use their localised websites for different countries to analyse how cultural dimensions can influence landing pages in practice.
Before we go further, it’s worth mentioning that a great deal of the ideas and inspiration behind this article has come from Nathalie Nahai, the Web Psychologist and her book covering online consumer psychology; Webs of Influence. If the topic in this article interests you, or if you’re generally interested in understanding the psychology behind online persuasion, I thoroughly recommend Nathalie’s book.
Power distance refers to the degree to which cultures are tolerant of, or even embrace, a wide divide in the population with regards to power and the distance between those at the top and those at the bottom. Power distance reflects the level to which a culture accepts an unequal distribution of power and spread of inequality. Countries with a high power distance accept the hierarchy of their society and don’t question the individual’s place within it. Low power distance countries strive to address any imbalance and demand justification of any inequality or handing out of power.
Low Power Distance
Austria is a country with a low power distance society which means Austrians favour independence, equality and minimal hierarchy. In the work environment, attitudes towards managers are informal and power is decentralised. Taking this information in context of landing page design, users will respond well to information and architecture which doesn’t fit within a strict hierarchy. Promote transparency whenever possible, whether that’s through communication, endorsements or just a general open approach to providing information. If we look at Coca-Cola’s landing page for Austrian visitors, we can see the page is designed for a user from a low power distant culture. The page doesn’t have strict hierarchy or limited navigational options; several options are available for the user to click through and continue their journey. The ‘Coke & Essen’ option promotes eating and drinking together, prompting endorsements and Coca-Cola stories from customers. David Alaba, a famous Austrian football player is prominently used as a figure of endorsement on the slider (using a symbol of the ‘people’s game’) and a widget at the bottom of the page displays customer comments on the Coca-Cola Facebook Page, encouraging open communication.
High Power Distance
Russia is a country with a high power distance. Power is centralised, clear hierarchy is valued and wide disparity between those with power and those without is tolerated. This is a conservative society. How should you design a landing page for a target culture with a high power distance? Order, structure and clear hierarchy are favoured, as is a more formal and conservative use of language. If endorsements are used, it’s essential that they come from authority figures. National pride is also prominent in high power distant countries, so national colours and/or flags can help. Looking at the Russian version of the Coca-Cola site, the site architecture is very simple. Users have limited options to continue their journey. Whilst the ‘friends’ and printing different first names on cans is running in Russia, pictures and comments from customers do not feature as much on the main landing page as they do on the Austrian. The page also provides significantly less content and information than the Austrian page. Endorsements are not offered from authority figures, but neither are they provided from customers. What’s possibly missing is any connection to Russian national pride. In order to enhance the landing page for a high power society, Coca-Cola may find that by including elements of blue to go with the red (Russian national colours) they may draw a positive response from Russian users with regards to conversion rates and site goals.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Individualism versus collectivism is a question of ‘I’ vs. ‘we’. In societies where individualism is prevalent, the individual prioritises the self rather than social institutions. Autonomy is valued and individuals are expected to make their own decisions and support themselves and their family rather than rely on the state. Freedom and ambition are also important. In a collectivist culture, the needs of the group and society are placed above those of the individual. Members of collective societies are expected to sacrifice personal goals with those of the community and can expect the wider community to offer support to individuals within the group when required.
The US is a very individualist society. If we use this information to design landing pages, it means that we promote individual participation and personal achievement, which could be in the form of competitions and games. We can be more liberal when it comes to making bold and audacious claims about our product. We can also include images on the landing page that highlight material symbols of success. If we analyse the US version of the Coca-Cola website, we can see that the headline image is one promoting a competition to ‘win a trip for your family’ by sharing a family p