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February 16, 2024 - 5 minutes

Adapting Web Development Frameworks to Diverse Sociocultural Norms

Discover how web development frameworks adapt to diverse cultures on an internet without borders.

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Our world is a diverse place with a variety of rich sociocultural differences that make us unique and special. And on our devices, there are an infinite amount of pages and apps that reflect all of these sociocultural norms and seeing them can make users return repeatedly. Web developers need to keep these in mind when they are designing and building their projects because of how important culture is for their clients. 

The Importance of Culture

Culture is a word that we’ve all heard before, but what does it really mean? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.” Taking this definition into account, a person can have access to several cultures throughout their life and connect with different points of their identity that may include:

  • Language

  • Economics

  • Geography

  • Religion

  • Traditions

  • History

  • Habits

  • Art, drama, and music

  • Food

  • Race and ethnicity

  • Government

Since all these parts of society impact our perspective, our cultural framework determines how we interact with and perceive the world. Connecting with your own culture feels familiar, easy, and perhaps even comfortable since it’s what you were raised with as a child. Our childhoods greatly impact our adulthood and we absorb the cultures that surround us as children; after all, children’s minds are sponges. 

Regarding web design, respecting and modifying aspects of the designs to accommodate and adapt to different cultures can be difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with that culture. In addition to the different cultural aspects, culture is broken down in the Seven Dimensions of Culture, research that dives into seven different spectrums of what defines a culture. The seven dimensions include the following:

  • Universalism versus particularism: these components focus on people believing  that laws, beliefs, and values are absolute, while on the other end, that in each circumstance or situation is different and requires a unique response. 

  • Individualism versus communitarianism: they say that there is power in numbers; however, some cultures may not agree with this statement. Some cultures value  individual achievement over group benefit and others put the well-being of the community before each person. 

  • Specific versus diffuse: some people love to keep their professional and personal lives completely separate, but others believe that they should overlap since strong professional relationships are always a plus. 

  • Neutral versus emotional: everyone has emotions, but how do you express them? Many feel like they should be open to expressing them freely, while others let logic and reason be their guide, hiding their emotional responses. 

  • Achievement versus ascription: a human’s value is hard to define, and yet there are people that have it very clear in their eyes. “You are what you do” is a saying that reflects those who believe that our value comes from our achievements.

  • Sequential time versus synchronous time: people see and manage time differently depending on where you are from and some cultures respect time as a sequence of events that requires planning and punctuality.

  • Internal direction versus external direction: the surroundings in which we live influence us in a variety of ways; nevertheless, there are differing beliefs on the extent of its power. Many cultures believe that they can exert control over the environment which is internal direction, while other cultures accept that nature and their surroundings control them or external direction. 

Developed by two researchers named Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, the Seven Dimensions of Culture shed light on what distinguishes one cultural group from another and thanks to the model, web developers are more equipped to work with these cultures and prevent any misunderstandings. So how can web developers running and creating the code for frameworks enhance the cross-cultural norms found in their database? Let’s discuss.

Cross Cultural Web Design

Designing a web page requires web developers to be aware of and take into account cultures that they aren’t familiar with; therefore, they need knowledge that will help facilitate that. As we saw above, cultures vary depending on where the culture lies on the seven dimensions and having these in mind help when it comes to different aspects of the page like content. But what about the design?

Some of the design elements that are essential to remember when designing with another culture in mind include the following:

  • Color: Colors in cultures can represent something completely different than in one culture and in another one, so it’s crucial to research colors prior to including them in your design. 

  • Typography: many fonts have been developed over the last century and while some may have names that represent a specific culture or country called stereotypography, it’s best to avoid them. For pages with multiple languages, the best practice is to use a font that is similar and takes up approximately the same amount of space between them all. 

  • Images: images can display a wide range of scenes depending on what emotions or connection the web developer wants to provoke; however, in some cultures something as simple as calling someone over can be seen as rude. 

  • Language: within one country there can be more than one language spoken alone, and although there are multiple languages for a page, sometimes words can simply be the name of a company in one language and in the other imply something quite different. 

  • Navigation: typical menus and navigation can vary depending on a wide range of factors like location and the target audience and web developers may lean towards choosing one style over another. 

These aesthetic design elements are essential to consider when creating a web page and thanks to web development frameworks, web developers have access to all types of code. Web development frameworks can aid their web developers in their design process in an infinite amount of ways, but when it comes to cross-cultural web design, there are a few steps they can take to further support them such as:

  • Internationalization and localization: when it comes to web development projects, it’s important to determine who the target audience is and based on who they are, web developers can choose to go in one direction or other: internationalization or localization; A framework can adapt their codes to either being fixed for one culture or designs that are easily adapted to various cultures. 

  • Cultural information: informing their users of cultural tendencies and meanings in a separate section, web development frameworks would provide pushes in the right direction in their design choices. If they provide the Seven Dimensions of Culture in regards to where a specific culture lies on their spectrum along with color schemes, language help, and trendy design choices from each culture, web designers could make better design choices. 

  • Community: receiving help directly from a person on a community board can be extremely beneficial and efficient since the information comes straight from a reliable source. Facilitating collaboration amongst a diverse group of people is a fantastic way for web development frameworks to build trust amongst their users and to aid web developers in making culturally appropriate designs. 

To create more culturally appropriate designs, web development frameworks can provide their users with cultural information, structure, and community support and web developers themselves have a responsibility to do as much research as possible to design the right page for their client. 

Culture is at the base of everything we do and taking it into account is a crucial part of the design process, especially when it’s one with which you’re not familiar. If you want to imbue culture into your designs, explore Ironhack’s Web Development Course.

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