Individualism and collectivism are cultural dimensions introduced by Geert Hofstede, that have an impact on intercultural communication and the way websites are designed.

Individualism and collectivism


The concepts of individualism and collectivism are cultural dimensions introduced by Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede in the 1980s. He differentiated cultures that are individualistic from those that are more collectivistic and studied the consequences of these aspects on communication.

According to him, Northern European countries and the United States tend towards individualism. On the contrary, Asian and Arabic countries tend to be more collectivistic.

Why is this notion interesting for website localization?

This differentiation between individualism and collectivism has an impact on communication, and also affects the way websites are designed.

 

Judgment of individuals

In an individualistic culture, people will tend to evaluate a person on personal and career achievements, whereas a collectivistic culture will tend to value group efforts more highly. This will have an influence on the content that will be displayed on the website. In a collectivistic culture, for instance, presenting the history of the company will take on particular importance.

 

Pictures and illustrations

Another example relates to the representation of individuals. In an individualistic society, people will more likely be represented individually, and as independent entities. In a collectivistic culture, pictures favor the representation of groups, especially in a family context, and are more likely to portray people in an active setting, for instance, playing sports.  

 

A clear example of this can be seen  on  Kellogg’s cereal company’s international websites.

kellogs germany           kellogs china

Kellogg’s german website                       Kellogg’s chinese website

As you may notice, the pictures displayed in the slideshow of the websites of northern countries and the United States show Kellogg’s cereals in rural settings with no humans present. However, if we look at the websites for China and Turkey, whose cultures are typically collectivistic, we notice that 2 out of  the 3 pictures from the slideshow show families. They seem to promote the consumption of  Kellogg’s products in a warm familial context.

 

Decision making

Another difference between individualistic and collectivistic cultures concerns decision making. In an individualist culture, personal and spontaneous desires  influence the decisions one makes. On the other hand, in a collectivistic culture general opinion and trends weigh more heavily in the decision making process. On a website, a “most popular” category would therefore be especially successful among a collectivist public.


Through these examples, we can see how individualistic and collectivistic cultural aspects can impact the localization of a website. Geert Hofstede not only defined this notion of individualism and collectivism, but also outlined other cultural dimensions that influence web design as well. Individualism and culturalism are not the only notions proposed by Geert Hofstede that have an impact on the field of web design. You can explore more of his research here .

 

References