I asked if anyone had data on differences between American and European
users. I'm doing a usability study of software written in Belgium, in
English, for European users; the company is about to bring it to the US. I
wondered if there were other differences like being in a hurry (and
mentioned that I'm from New York, where everyone's in a hurry).
Thanks to all.
From: "Damian Couch" <[log in to unmask]>
I have done research all over the U.S. as well as in Europe (Italy, German,
England). In my opinion your issues are greater than just U.S. vs. Europe.
Germans are very punctual and Italians reminded me more of Mexicans,
expressing things with a lot of emotion but being far more relaxed about
time schedules. When I say "relaxed" I worked with people that were several
hours "relaxed" within a day. Plus or minus half a day duration was okay
with some of them and we were only conducting research for a couple hours.
As far as drop-off and pick-up things might be plus or minus a few days or
even a plus or minus a couple weeks. Again Germans......within 60 seconds
In general......very general....I would say that Americans are more uptight
about expectations regarding time schedules than a lot of the world. But as
I previously wrote Germans are very exacting in every way including time
Yes are you receiving this information from someone else living in the
state of NY but I have only been here six years and am originally from the
west coast. There are HUGE differences between the east and west coasts of
the U.S. as well as HUGE differences simply between Rochester, NY and NYC, NY.
If your client currently sells the software they no doubt have a
demographic for the SW defined. This might play a larger role in linguistic
expectations than countries. We in the tech industry are very time rushed
and time conscious but those herding cattle elsewhere might accept "in due
If I can assist you with any country specific knowledge based on my
experience feel free to contact me. I'm glad to share what I know.
Eastman Kodak Company
Interesting topic Hal even without the usability angle. My experiences with
people in general have been that Americans are in a hurry most of the time
but not all Americans. I'm from the New England area and find that here we
scurry around constantly whether we are working or not, though more so when
we are working. And at work we have high standards for ourselves and others
and we are critcal of lower standards. This is not a good thing but it is
reality I think.
I don't believe the same is true on the West Coast, at least in the Silcon
Valley area. I spent quite a bit of time working there over a period of a
few years. In the workplace, they are much more laid back in terms of being
in a hurry though not so much in terms of their quality standards.
I've worked with a lot of Europeans but have only been to Belgium for work.
I find the Europeans to have a much slower pace and to be less demanding in
the workplace of themselves and of their output.
That is all I can offer. I hope it helps.
From: "Wells, Christy H" <[log in to unmask]>
I ran some usability sessions in London in 2001 and I'm also a fellow New
Yorker. Here are my observations: The Londoners were far more "polite" and
reserved about giving feedback than midwesterners (where I do most of my
tests). We hired a native brit to do the facilitation because I was worried
about my US accent and American mannerisms. Our facilitator remarked after
a session that one fellow was very "ballsy" meaning he was very assertive
about telling us what was wrong with the product. And that in itself kind
of cracked me up, because "ballsy" isn't I word even I would use in a
business context! So - for all their polite nature there were significant
differences in terminology and what was considered "polite." It kind of
hammered home to me the differences across the ocean. Other than that - I
didn't find anything huge - our major differences were in the business
model and some of the language we had used on the screen.
One other thing - we were testing a B2B application so our client offered
up some of their employees for the test. We had some free gifts for their
time, but at least half of them refused the gift due to ethical concerns.
The gift was worth about a $20 and they had to travel out of their office
to a facility in another part of the city.
From: Anita Salem <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: European and American users
X-To: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
I've been curious about this as well. Even though most of my user
experience work has been in the U.S., I've noticed some big differences in
Asian and Russian ESL users here in the US. Some things I've seen are more
requests for background information--not "just the facts ma'am". I've also
heard more comments about the lack of imaging and a sense of humor. And
then repeatedly I come across different understandings of common terms and
applications (My favorite was when my test question about disposing oil in
the street drains led the user to look under food. Couldn't figure it out
until we talked and it turns out that in his culture they are very heavy
users of cooking oil and that was his problem with "oil".)
In trying to look at these cross-cultural issues, I came across some work
by Aaron Marcus, who has applied a popular Dutch anthropologist's (Geert
Hofstede) work on cultural dimensions to web site design. Hofstede's work
looks at cultural similarities and differences across five
dimensions--power, individualism, femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and
time orientation. I found Aaron's discussion of how this applies to web
site design interesting, and I think Hofstede's dimensions are a very
useful lens to look at any culture. However, I'm not sure about the
validity of the approach. It seems to border on stereotyping and
Hofstede's methodology has been criticized.
I haven't really spent the time to pursue Hofstede's theory and was
wondering if any one has come across it and knows if it is a "credible" theory.
For those interested, the Aaron Marcus article can be found at:
customer-driven product development
From: "Gart, Mitchell" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "Hal Shubin" <[log in to unmask]>
One quick comment is that I don't think you mean European vs American, I
think you mean British vs American, because, for example, "in due course"
doesn't mean much to a French-only speaker. So you're really asking about
differences between USA English and British English.
- Mitch Gart
From: "Edwin van de Bospoort" <[log in to unmask]>
A friend of mine (former collegue), is currently working on your continent
(I'm in Europe, the Netherlands) and I popped your Q to him. Here's the
answer, hope it helps:
Edwin van de Bospoort
I don't have any articles or statistics to back me up, but I'm of the
opinion that there is a difference in attitude towards software/websites
between Europe and N/A. Just as there is a difference between NY residents
and the rest of N/A :p I think they mostly boil down to cultural
difference, and thus all statements that follow are huge generalizations.
Most of the commercial websites in N/A wouldn't stand a change in Europe
because they simple do not look professional. Americans tend to focus more
on content/functionality and accept the fact that a commercial company
wouldn't spend their dollars on 'chrome', usability, and other
nice-to-have's. They rather see a discount. Europeans expect a proper
design. The site needs to breath the authority and solidity of a large
And maybe Americans are more critical of missing functionality. But then if
you compare for instance banking websites across the pond you may concluded
otherwise. Personally I think there is more of a difference in attitude
between rural and city people. A New Yorker will react much the same as a
Londoner, whereas somebody from Townsville NY may find they have a lot in
common with somebody from Lutjebroek NL.
What's also important in my mind, is the difference in infrastructure
between the two continents. This is something you have to take into
consideration when you use internet technology. Europeans are blessed with
solid mobile networks and high speed internet throughout their continent.
Whereas if you live in rural America you tend to have dialup (28.8kb modem
is what we use as a design constraint). Mobile phones are not nearly as
prevalent as in Europe and the service is spotty and limited. No internet
on your phone. At best you will have picture messaging. If your application
generates heavy traffic you may want to look into that.
If you want to localize your software, then there is a lot of stuff written
up on that. IBM has a lot of experience in this area. Typically you'll have
to make sure that the software is internationalized first (i.e. all 'local'
information is insulated from the rest of the logic), otherwise you're
looking at a _huge_ effort, and you may want to lower the bar (and have
those NYers suffer. Oh well, they can take it. After all they put up with
each other all the time;).
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