Webs of Influence

The psychology of online persuasion

Culturability: The Next Big Thing in Web Design

Why your website will work for one culture, and completely fail in another.

World map
Copyright Nathalie Nahai (C) 2013
Whatever you do online - whether you run a business, keep a blog or curate a community - if you want to do it well, there are three things you absolutely need to pin down:


3 Secrets to Online Success 

1. Know who you’re targeting

2. Communicate persuasively

3. Sell with integrity


In all the research I conducted while writing my book, Webs Of Influence [1], it was the cultural context of online users that most intrigued me. Why do some people prefer highly structured websites? Why do others enjoy the freedom to explore for themselves? And what makes a website work in one culture, and completely fail in another?

In the next six posts we’re going to explore this topic a bit further and discover how an audience’s culture influences their online behaviours.



For the last few years, smart phones have been driving internet penetration rates in emerging markets around the world. These fabulous devices have enabled millions of people, often in remote regions and far-flung countries, to circumvent poor infrastructure and get plugged in [2, 3].

This explosion of online activity means that it is now more important than ever that we understand the cultural context of our online platforms. Or, to put it another way, their culturability.

Defined as “the relationship between culture and usability in WWW design,” [4], culturability holds the key to success for any business wishing to reach their audience, wherever they may be.

And there’s no better place to start than with a country’s macro personality traits.


Godfather of Culture

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch professor of social psychology who spent over 40 years exploring the subject, defined culture as “The collective mental programming of the human mind which distinguishes one group of people from another” [4].

From his extensive research, he distilled 6 key dimensions with which we can describe, measure and compare different countries: 


1. Power Distance

2. Individualism v. Collectivism

3. Masculinity v. Femininity

4. Uncertainty Avoidance

5. Long-term Orientation

6. Indulgence v. Restraint


Over this short series, we’ll be exploring each of these principles in turn, and discovering how you can use them online to better understand, engage with and sell to your customers – whatever country they’re from.

Come back next week when we'll look at the first of these dimensions: Power Distance.






[1] N. Nahai (2012). Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion. Pearson.

[2] mobiThinking (2013). Global mobile statistics 2013 Part A: Mobile subscribers; handset market share; mobile operatorshttp://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/a#topmobilemarkets

[3] IDC (2012). Top 10 Predictions. IDC Predictions 2013: Competing on the 3rd Platform. http://www.idc.com/research/Predictions13/downloadable/238044.pdf

[4] W. Barber and A. Badre (1998). Culturability: The merging of culture and usability. In Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Human Factors and the Web.

[5] G. Hofstede (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill.


Nathalie Nahai is a Web Psychologist and best-selling author of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion.


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