2a. National Cultural Dimensions

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.”   (Hofstede, G., 1984)

Some authors divide the world into different national or regional cultures such as Western cultures including Northern America and most of Europe and in some respect, parts of Oceania – Australia and New Zealand with the English language being predominant. Eastern and Far Eastern cultures namely Central Asia stretching across Russia on to China and Japan, not forgetting the Indian subcontinent. There are those countries where Spanish is spoken which tend to be grouped together as having a Latin culture for example Latin America or South America, Mexico and Cuba along with Spain and Portugal. Middle Eastern cultures tend to be linked to the northern countries of Africa and those from the eastern side of the Mediterranean and Arabia and the mix from the the Sahara Desert south with African cultures plus perhaps some European influences.

It is important to note that this is a discussion about regional or national cultural dimensions and not individual differences, even though these dimensions may impact on the way individuals react or how they perceive branding and elements of organisational control.  Hofstede, Inglehart, and Schwartz have provided ‘cultural dimensions’ from which to measure cultural differences and in recent years these have been applied to management styles, design and many other business activities especially web design as illustrated by the ‘Web Psychologist’ in her slides.

Some aspects of these ideas have been criticised in particular by Kim (2007)2  who questions that idea that the world of cultural regions can be neatly divided into contrasting orientations and there is a need to understand that there may be many times when dimensions co-exist within regions.  This section shows that it is not just business that can apply dimensions to assist with marketing and web page design but how the scores could be linked to elements of access and assistive technology design and development.

Hofstede dimensions for Qatar, India, Sweden and UK

This graph illustrates the scores given by Hofstede for Qatar, India, Sweden and UK taken from http://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html

George et al., (2012) used Hofstede’s dimensions to illustrate how these cultural differences impact on interface design illustrated in the table below alongside the impact the dimensions may have on AT use, in part suggested by Ripat and Woodgate (2011)6, Boujarwah et al (2011), Parette et al (2003) and  Ping et al (2001)

Score on Hofstede Dimension


Dimension 1

Power Distance

Design – Look and Feel – websites
Less structured access to information, less focus on expertise, authority and official Logos.  Fewer access barriers images of young people (not gender specific) in everyday activities and public spaces. Access restrictions.  Emphasis on images relating to leaders and large buildings. Symmetrically designed sites
AT Use
AT user may be considered as expert as the provider when seeking help. (Scores: Sweden 31 and UK 35) AT expert and elders considered as important in acquisition of advice and skills etc. (Scores: Qatar 80 and India 70)

Dimension 2


Design – Look and Feel – websites
Emphasise history and tradition, include socio-political achievements, images of groups and older people.  A more formal approach – value social relationships. Images of success with an emphasis on action and pictures of individuals.  Use of direct language and individual opinions –
AT Use
AT that promotes independence may not be highly valued – it is more important to see it as part of the whole and working in harmony within the community. (Scores: Qatar 38 and India 48) AT is promoted as providing independence as an individual. (Scores: Sweden 71 and UK 89)

Dimension 3


Design – Look and Feel – websites
Emphasis on visual aesthetics, support cooperation and exchange of information, images of groups of people laughing talking and working together, figurative images, pictures of women. Focus on task efficiency, utilitarian graphics, limited choices, highly saturated colour images.
AT Use
AT needs to not only work but also look good plus have a gender and generational fit (Scores: Sweden 5, Qatar 52, India 56) AT provision may differ between genders – not necessarily equal status between genders and age. (Score: UK 66)

Dimension 4

Uncertainty avoidance

Design – Look and Feel – websites
Long pages with scrolling and vertical page layout, abstract images, fewer links. Restricted amounts of data, formal organization of charts, extensive legalese.  Horizontal page layout  more pictures of buildings.
AT Use
Trial and error acceptance. (Scores: Sweden 29, UK 35 and India 40) Avoids making mistakes and fears showing others where mistakes are being made.(Score: Qatar 68)

Dimension 5

Long term orientation

Design – Look and Feel – websites
Emphasis on current events, clear strategic plans, fast efficient task execution. Photos representing a history of events or activities and images of creators or the establishment.  Looks to the future over a long period.
AT Use
Trialling the latest technology tends not to cause issues as long as it has possible benefits. (Scores: Sweden 20 and UK 25) AT must be considered in the light of accepted behaviours within society at the time of provision. (Score: India 61)

Dimension 6

Indulgence (This is new dimension and has no scores)

Design – Look and Feel – websites
Symbols of status important, rewards clearly illustrated for work well done but restrained. Allows fun elements to appear with rewards appearing that are not necessarily linked to material items. Objects need to fulfil their purpose not status.
AT Use
Prefers to use items that are used by others and are respected. Accepts items that may not have status but suit the needs of the user


  1. Hofstede, G. (1984). National cultures and corporate cultures. In L.A. Samovar & R.E. Porter (Eds.), Communication Between Cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth p. 51. http://tinyurl.com/mxwuckk
  2. Kim, M.S. (2007). Commentary: our culture, their culture and beyond: Further thoughts on
    ethnocentrism in Hofstede’s discourse,Journal on multicultural discourses, 2(1): 26–31.
  3. Inglehart, R.and Welzel, C., “Changing Mass Priorities: The Link Between Modernization and Democracy.” Perspectives on Politics June 2010 (vol 8, No. 2) page 554.http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs/articles/folder_published/article_base_54
  4. Schwartz,S.,(2004) “Mapping and Interpreting Cultural Differences around the World”, in H. Vinken, J. Soeters and P. Ester (Eds.). Comparing Cultures, Dimensions of Culture
    in a Comparative Perspective (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.http://tinyurl.com/lrg579j
  5. George R., Nesbitt, K. Donovan, M. and Maynard, J., (2012) ‘Evaluating indigenous design features using cultural dimensions’, User Interfaces 2012: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC2012), Melbourne, Vic (2012) http://crpit.com/confpapers/CRPITV126George.pdf
  6. Ripat J, Woodgate R. (2011). The intersection of culture, disability and assistive technology. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology 6(2):87-96.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20698763
  7. Boujarwah, F. A., Nazneen, N., Hong,  H., Abowd, G. D. and Arriaga, R. I. (2011)
    “Towards a Framework to Situate Assistive Technology Design in the
    Context of Culture”. Presented at the 13th International ACM
    SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, 24-26
    October, Dundee, Scotland. 2011 http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~hhong31/src/Boujarwah_ASSET2011_CrossCulturalStudy.pdf 
  8. Parette, P., Huer, M.B., & Hourcade, J.J. (2003). Using assistive technology focus groups with families across cultures. Education and training in developmental disabilities, 38(4), 429- 440. http://daddcec.org/Portals/0/CEC/Autism_Disabilities/Research/Publications/Education_Training_Development_Disabilities/2003v38_Journals/ETDD_200312v38n4p429-440_Using_Assistive_Technology_Focus_Groups_With_Families_Across.pdf 
  9. Ping, T. P., Sharbini, H., Chan, C. P., & Julaihi, A. A. (2011). Integration of cultural dimensions into software localisation testing of assistive technology for deaf children. In Software Engineering (MySEC), 2011 5th Malaysian Conference in (pp. 136-140). IEEE. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=6140658