This chapter is sought to review the empirical/specific literature and the theoretical literature of the previous researchers in order to reveal more about ethnicity-based website. Consider a case where a society is made of different ethnic group, each with its own language, cultural and religions activities. In the study on the Malaysian population, Wan (1993) found that the distribution of the population is very unique since the number of the indigenous people is almost equal to that of the immigrants from India and China. Although the effort to retain ethnic identity may be perceived idealistic, such efforts have been carried out at the expense of social life. In case of Malaysia, disproportionate resources and efforts have been directed towards the attainment of economic, social, and educational objectives, hoping to repair the inequalities, which causes social tension (Stetter, 1985). Malaysia embarked on the development programs that led the nation and its citizens to the class of a developed country.
This research uses the semiotic system analysis to look into and be able to outline the Cultural Markers of typography/language, color, and the image. This aims at helping in discovering the structure and the code of the website that is ethnicity sensitive. Hoftstede (1980) inspired this analysis in his landmark cultural survey, where power distance (PD) emerged as a strong force in the cultural integration. Aaron Marcus (2002) supported the approach of the multidimensional web interface analysis. A case study of Malaysians was carried out in order to reveal a visual interface that is ethnically designed (Leung, 2005).
The expansion of the WWW was the greatest development in global communication over the past two decades. Internet has become an important source of information giving access to commercial information and business affairs. Internet has also seen the creation of social networks that are connecting and meeting social needs; this is proved through the creation of Facebook. The presentation aspects of life on the websites are taken to be a private and public imperative for the global society. This is applicable to both the developed and developing countries. The results of this are the alteration of cultural presentation and the provision of certain challenges to people who are looking for policies that would control identities. The presentation of these issues has assumed governmental concern (Robbin & Stylianou, 2002).
The development of an efficient multinational and multicultural Internet structure demands designed websites that function in diverse environment. Universally accessible sites also have the capacity to inform. They are designed to provide information at a global level reducing any exclusion effect. The effects of traditional images on the web user are complex variables. It is hard to come up with the aspect of tradition that influence website user’s behavior. The multiethnic interface is concerned with the designing of websites that are efficient communication means, where the cognation of cultural differences is thorough and the communication is effective and comprehensive (Peterson, 2000). In case of Malaysia, the government official sites have currently emphasized a monoculture in favor of Malays, which has resulted in a significant ignorance of multiethnic users through the use of graphics and textual features.
Most of the websites are characterized as being dominated by a certain culture of a given group of society, which shows through the images, language, and different cultural identities. As a rule, government sites use an official language of a certain country as their working language; however, those minorities who speak different languages should be given a chance to access the information on such sites without any difficulty. This has seen the rise of business websites that are targeting a given group of people through the use of their local languages. English should be applied in most of the websites across the cultural divides since it is understood by the majority of people and, at the same time, is attached to few communities as their indigenous language. In addition, it is regarded as the language of globalization. Most of the states’ websites in India are designed to favor the Indians indigenous, sidelining the facts that the Internet is a tool of a cultural unity or disunity. Web users from different cultural setups may conclude that there is a disintegration of their culture and thus, they may find it difficult to identify themselves with the government initiatives that are posted online (Peracchio, 2002).
Culture is the behavior and the conduct of a group that affects the communication and social practices. Cultural guidelines are liable to changes as group changes. This has been a complex equation to solve in sites mapping, nonetheless, web designers need to think on the complexity in multiethnic context.
Cultural Markers Methods (CMM)
This is an exploratory research design that uses visual exploration and a case study to analyze all the data collected through Cultural Markers Methods (CMM) and it is identified through Mood Boards of assorted traditional aspects. From this design, future web designers are able to understand the correct cultural visual aspects of web interfaces (Peracchio, 2000). Cultural markers analyzed in the case of Malaysia considered language, pattern, color, and images among others. These four attributes were used in mapping so as to come up with the quality of a web designed in the appropriate pattern of social and cultural interface, demonstrating intended message regarding cultural aspect of a society as a whole.
The Visualization of Culture
To represent culture visually, it is necessary to prepare a visual stock of signs that are relevant to a particular ethnic group. Cultural images that are produced in a given culture should be collected (Magge, 1998). The images of importance include languages, color, symbols, and layout. The Malay and Chinese images presented the majority of ethnic groups of their societies.
Traditionally, MMMs have been used in representing collaged composition, however, in case of Malaysia, there was a large area of interest, hence it was a structural presentation that could allow for an easy comparison of cultures (McDonagh & Garner, 2001). Mood Boards entail all things that are associated with visual representations. They represent the collection of images brought together presenting an emotional reaction to a design brief. Using this technique, the designs of the sites are able to identify changing visual signals that represent certain culture.
A research that was carried out by Yu and Roh (2002) suggested that the best layout should provide the visitor with structural and contextual model for accessing and understanding the information. Cultural tastes are clearly outlined in the layout; these include the factors such placing the banner and the menu at the top and placing the language and shape at the bottom of the page. The sites that are owned by the government tend to have their layout from left to right while those owned by non-governmental organizations tend to have their layout focused on the symmetrical design components (Yu & Roh, 2002).
Symbols are other important attributes of any culture. According to Cyr and Trevor, symbols have similar effects to the ones exerted by metaphors – they denote actions to their users. The use of certain symbols is rather relevant, especially when they represent one ethnic group disregarding the other one. Barber and Badre (2001) listed colors giving them their connotations according to various cultures. While red connotes happiness in China, in the United States it means danger. The color that is used in the design of a certain website may have cultural impacts, which may be interpreted differently by different communities. Commonly applied colors in the state’s website are white and blue for the U.S. and red and green, which symbolize growth and peace, – for China (Morrison & Conway 2004).
Images in websites hold the clearest cultural information. In case of the Malaysian government, there is a tendency to over the use of images that are associated with Malays, thus sidelining other communities. Non-governmental bodies are sensitive of the effects of the images used on their websites, why they tend to use neutral or multiethnic images. Although most of the websites do not include sounds and music, these aspects allow the designers to come up with the hierarchy to most crucial cultural interface for the given multiethnic users. These features of websites are serving as the groundwork for the establishment of the guidelines for designing the interface that is inclined to a given set of society. Nevertheless, the optimal website must display a specific aspect, giving the site some cultural uniqueness and recognition among the users from a certain group of people.
In the style menu, the aspects are related to personal cultural adherence and multilingual knowledge. Site users may have their own expectations on how the site should appear (Hofstede, 1997). According to Hofstede, individuals with advanced knowledge easily disassociate themselves with their cultural believes and they are fully aware of the limitations of those cultural aspects.
Knowledge on cultural differences has been an issue of concern in the field of web designing. Therefore, when designing the site’s style menu, one should put into consideration the user’s cultural knowledge.
Thus, the knowledge of cultural differences is an attribute that plays a great role in the determination of the design of a certain website. Previous researchers did not investigate the interaction between the user and the interface. However, previous cross-cultural studies were concentrated on the surveys about human-computer relationships but not on the behavioral survey of the interface (Evers, 1997). It is difficult for website designers to advance the knowledge of a visual interface that is sensitive to the cultures. Regarding the inadequacy in the guiding information, the development process can be made impossible. This calls for a profound research that would focus on the development of a set of guidelines on multiethnic sites, combining theoretical model of practical development and intercultural design. There is a great difference between the multicultural and mono-cultural communities; therefore, website designer must be very specific when designing the site for a specific targeted group of people.