Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ENGL685 - Something, Something, Giant Hat

Hey everybody you wanna give me money for my web analysis research? Click here to see my proposal!

If I Could Do It All Over?

Honestly, my biggest regret for this semester is I waited too long to admit that my first idea was failing. It's hard to tell, when you feel at least a little like all your projects are failing when you're in Grad School! With things like inadequacy in discussion in class, you stick with it. If you keep saying words to the best of your ability, and you listen to the observations others make and attempt to be like then, you improve over the semester for all your struggling. With my project too, I thought the scholarly discomfort I experienced while having trouble coming up with good resources on syllabi, or reconciling the lack of international composition perfective I had was all just my own inexperience. I thought that, with time, I would finish the trial by fire stronger for having endured it.

Boy, was I wrong.

Still, a lesson is a lesson, and this methodology class has been one of the lessons best taught so far in my grad career. The pacing, the constant accountability, everything was a well crafted live-in research experience. That includes the suffering and the failure! I have gained a huge appreciation for work done "in process" and how even when you think you've finished, you haven't /really/ finished. Next time (although I hope for my sake, there is not a next time) I will let a dying project go peacefully into that goodnight. I don't know if I've come to terms enough to wish it well, but I will certainly at least let it go.

Thanks to beginning all over again at the last second, I actually managed to re-do one of my other big regrets: annotated bibliography entries. These are hard for me, as I often am unsure where to stop at "useful" details, and when a little is a little too much. This left me writing vague summaries a lot of the time, which /later/ left me having to re-read the articles all over again because my notes didn't have any useful information. In doing the mass posting of the ABs I was due on my new subject, I made a much better attempt at putting the right stuff in. There was only one entry I was less than perfectly satisfied with, and considering I posted 11, that is a much better ratio than before. I hope that I will continue to be diligent and keep the habit of synopsis-ing everything I read from now on, but that still feels like a definite "maybe". I'm not sure- ABs are very time consuming on the front end, even if they save you time later!

So far, this is my favorite class I've taken in grad school. It was the only one where I really felt like ti was okay to be overwhelmed, and that I felt like the professor was actively instructing me on what I was expected to do, rather than telling me what I was supposed to end up with and letting me figure those small middle bits out for myself. I guess that's how a process-based class is supposed to be, but either way, I'm very thankful. Thank you, Shelley. My only regret is that I won't get to spend more time with you until you ascend to heaven like that one hobo cat in the Broadway musical Cats. Ah well. Memory, right?

ENGL685 - We're All Alone Now, Gimmie Somthin' to Blog About

Today at midnight is the beginning of the end. All that will be left behind is the waiting.

Do I wish I had some things differently? Yeah...there are always things you wish you had done, I guess. I wish I'd somehow made more time to read, and to understand. I wish I'd been able to be the ideal student, or even the amazing students that some of my peers are.

Still, I do leave this semester behind knowing that almost all of the time, I did the best I could. I don't think anyone can be "on" 100% of the time, nor should they be expected to be.

In the end, all that you can really talk about is what happened. Even if it's not what you wanted, you can at least look at it, acknowledge it, and move on with the plan to do better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ENGL685 - I Fell Into A Burning Ring of Fire

If I can just make it two more days I'll get to rest and even have a birthday. I'm a lucky luck boy. That is me.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

ENGL685 - Sing Alleluia, Clap Your Hands

1. Bernard, M. (2003, March 3). Criteria for optimal web design (designing for usability). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

The biggest issue with Bernard is I cannot, for the life of me, find out who he is. I Googled him and I see lots of other websites recommending his design series, but he could have published these from a Starbucks in between bussing tables. We just don't know. He does fully site his information, and since so many other sources cite him, I feel like it's okay to take that hit. This particular page in the series addresses the use of regional language and customs, color meaning as it varies by country (including the US and Japan), and four of Hofstede's "dimensions". The cultural relevancies listed are things like how Coca-Cola, in the Chinese syllabic alphabet, is "bite the wax tadpole" and how the "shopping cart" in the US is called a "basket" in the UK. The only color-meaning similarity between the US and Japan is the color red. Both mean "danger" (though in the US it also means anger). The top two elements will be most useful, since Hofstede is addressed a little more thoroughly elsewhere, so that will likely be what I use the most from this short piece. His reference list will also be a point of interest as i click through more and see what else he has to see RE: US specific web design.

2. Mirocco, R. (2015, February 16). Big in Japan: Web Design in the Land of the Rising Sun. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

Mirocco is a lot more forthcoming about where he's getting his information, and that is a total blessing. He has lived in Japan 5 years and is a Communication major, and he interviewed his two designer friends for the perspectives offered in the article. The first reason he gives for Japan's sudden switch from minimalist to as cluttered as possible is their high level of uncertainty avoidance (which is another shot at Hofstede- the guy is e v e r y w h e r e). Thankfully, he soon moves past what I do know into what I don't. For instance the next thing he mentions is that the bright colors often found on J-Websites mimic the bright colors of the big city streets, and that these sites are often meant to take the place of a face-to face salesman. The section that follows talks about how a lot of businesses in Japan are still COD and that's absolutely worked for them, so there's something to the combination of the desire to replace a physical presence and then a high level of uncertainty avoidance. Mirocco also looks at international companies. Toyota's Japanese and US page are both uniquely zen and uncluttered, and while the slightly smaller big-brand company Uniqlo is still a little bunched up, it's a lot less chaotic than its Japan-only companions like HotPepperBeauty.

3. Cyr, D., & Trevor-Smith, H. (2004). Localization of Web design: An empirical comparison of German, Japanese, and United States Web site characteristics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 1199-1208. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from EBSCO.

This piece is the first to define both "localization" and "internationalization" which is a nice change. According to Cyr and Trevor-Smith, localization "is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local "look-and-feel." Total sample size of 90 websites.

(The keyword "e-commerce" is starting to become a more common occurrence now, as well. If this is a common limiter, should I also toe the line? What constitutes e-commerce? YouTube doesn't have a shop, per-se, but they do sell through their content creators and advertisements. Does that make them a site of e-commerce? What about companies that have their information on a website, but no place to purchase things except on site? To look at later.)

Other defined terms:

Satisfaction - "stickiness" (Holland & Baker, 2001), "the sum of all the Web site qualities that induce visitors to remain at the Web site rather than move to another site" (p. 37).

Perception - "the degree to which participants feel the site is appropriate for their home country based on three variables of media perception - social presence (i.e., transmission of information rich in socioeconomic content), communication effectiveness, and communication interface" (p. 1200).

Culturability - (Barber and Badre, 1998) is the merging of culture and usability and represents a relationship between design elements and culture (also see Badre 2000, p. 2 for alt. definition). Attention to culturability also includes how pictorial in-formation is presented and organized, preferences for text versus graphics, directionality for how the language is writ-ten (i.e., right to left), help features, and navigation tools,among others (Marcus & Gould, 2000).

List of mentioned scholars:

  • Holland & Baker (2001)
  • Barber and Badre (1998, 2001)
  • Marcus & Gould (2000)
  • Badre (2000)
  • Sun (2001)
  • Del Gado & Nielson (1996)
  • Cheskin (1999)
  • Fogg, Soohoo, and Danielson (2002)
  • Fogg & Tseng (1999)
  • Fernandes (1995)
  • Lee, Kim, and Moon (2000)
  • Picard (1998)
  • Dempsey & Sussman (1999)
  • Robbins & Stylianou (2002, 2003)
  • Yu and Roh (2002)
  • Huizingh (2000)
  • Hall and Hall (1990) ((yes, that's not a typo))
  • Beamer & Varner (2001)
  • Bernard (2002)
  • Simon (2001) ((contradiction of color theory from above article))
  • Boor and Russo (1993)
  • Hofstede (1980) ((no way in no way out))

Language Variables: Translation available, headlines, point form, paragraph, left to right, top to bottom.

Layout Variables: Banners on left, banners on right, banners on bottom, banners on top, banner in middle of page, static banner, use of frames, menus [sic] on the left, menu on right, menu on bottom, menu on top, search top left, search middle left, search bottom left.

Symbols Variables: Use of local or culturally specific symbols, Asian symbols, passive pictures (i.e., maps), Symbols for currency, Easily understood.

Content/Structure Variables: Help functions available, help online, help via e-mail, help via telephone, help in live chat, is there a user sign-in?, index features, site map features, commercial banner ad.

Page Layout by Percentage Variables: Commercial advertising, navigation, content, graphics.

Navigation: Navigation tool symbolic (nontext), dropdown menus, vertical menus, horizontal menus, return to home button, keyword search, search available in other languages.

Links: Internal links, external links, symbols used for links, text links, changes color.

Multimedia: use multimedia, streaming video, sound, animation.

Colors: Red, orange, ochre, sunflower, yellow, light green, green, teal, blue, dark purple, bluish purple, merlot, white, grey, black.

Badre and Badre and Barber's studies individually seem to be pretty close to what I was thinking of doing. They looked for cultural design elements ("cultural markers") that were common between different cultures. Another researcher named Sun did a study in 2001 focused on visual design elements that also seems really interesting. One conclusion of that study was that for consumers, usability > culturally sensitive design.

This one has so much that for the sake of space/time, I'm going to move ahead.

4. Hu, J., Shima, K., Oehlmann, R., Zhao, J., Takemura, Y., & Matsumoto, K. (2003). An empirical study of audience impressions of B2C web pages in Japan, China and the UK. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 176-189. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from ScienceDirect.

Defined terms:

B2C -  Business to Consumer

Electronic Commerce (!) - "the delivery of information, products and services, or payments via telephone lines, computer networks or other electronic means". Restricted for this study to mean "business that is processed by the World Wide Web" and includes "online shopping, online securities, and online banking".

Culture - A collective phenomenon, learned patterns of thinking, feeling, and potential acting from living within a defined social environment, usually typified by country.

B2C web page -  A web page used for business to consumer (transactions) in the world wide web.

Web page design - the visual style of a web page based on available design factors such as title, background color, etc.

Impression - "describes and emotion state or feeling of an audience, which is elicited by a B2C web page" on the user's first visit. Synonyms include "emotion" and "feeling".

Impression factor - terms to describe a web page include awkward, brief, boring, charming, cluttered, soulful, unpleasant, consistent, epochal, exciting, likable, opulent, progressive, reliable, simple, vibrant, and witty.

Usability - "the extent to which the product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use". Major attributes include learnablitiy, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction.

Design factor - the visual elements a B2C web page is made of. Specified as title format, title position, menu size, clip art size, main color, background color, color brightness, and color harmonization.

Choice - "the available selections or options included in a design factor".

For all its operationalizing, this study doesn't conclude anything too ground breaking. It says that it was confirmed the visual design choices made by the web developer to effect the impression of their user. The end recommendation is basically that the web designer know their audience when localizing, which isn't particularly groundbreaking. Still, it's nice to have an idea how they broke up their study, and so far, they do the best job defining the terms they use and operate under.

5. Cho, C., & Cheon, H. (2005). CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISONS OF INTERACTIVITY ON CORPORATE WEB SITES: The United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea. Journal of Advertising, 99-115.

This study is one of the first to focus, more generally, on corporate websites rather than just e-commerce. A great deal of the background discusses web design as focused on effective marketing, so letting the scope of the study widen a bit allowed the researchers to assess a better sized data sample (and one a little more relevant to what I'm trying to do in my own project). It's also the first to include a table with figures for online users, ad revenue by platform, and total population. While these numbers have no doubt changed in the last ten years, having them definitely helps situate the scale of the claims their research makes. Actually, they hit a full-on home run with their tables- the next list not only the definitions for their interactivity terms, but also the studies and scholars who coined them, along with the year (p. 103). This study is also /very/ heavy on numbers and data. I still need to decide to what purpose my study will be, but when I arrive there, I'm sure having this "hard data" to back up what will most likely be "soft analysis" on my part will be great.

6. Okazaki, S., & Alonso, J. (2003). Right messages for the right site: On‐line creative strategies by Japanese multinational corporations. Journal of Marketing Communications, 221-239. Retrieved May 1, 2015.

This is the first study I've evaluated with a specifically "Japan vs" lens. Thusfar, it's been more popular to center none of the evaluative cultures, but to use a framework and series of criteria to evaluate all websites on their own terms and then compare and contrast the finding s and what these may mean in a cultural context. What this study does instead is look specifically into how multinational corporations based in Japan change (or don't change) elements of their web design on their content created for the US and Spain. They assert that the debate between whether companies should standardize or localize still goes on. Standardizing and changing nothing but the language for web content is the most cost effective method, but studies have shown that localizing beings more consumer traffic.

Their website-limiting criteria:

(1)    A parent company engages in foreign production through its affiliates located in more than five countries.
(2)    A parent company exercises direct control over the policies of its affiliates.
(3)    A parent company implements business strategies in production, marketing, finance and staffing that transcend national boundaries.
(4)    A parent company possesses home pages in Japan, Spain and the USA
With such specific criteria, only 50 companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange could be used for the study. A lesson in setting good terms!

To make the comparisons fair, the companies were then grouped by the product sold category, which were: household electronic appliances, electronics and equipment, cameras and videos, industrial product, automobile and accessories, musical instruments, home entertainment supplies, clocks and watches, misc.

There were evaluated for:

(1)    Soft sell approaches: celebrity endorsement, curiosity arousal, emotional/psychological appeals, entertainment and symbolic/visual metaphors.
(2)    Hard sell approaches: brand repetition/familiarization, comparison, habit starting by trials/simulations, rational reasoning and special incentives.
This study is MORE NUMBERS. Unlike the last study, though, they do a pretty good job explaining how the math works and what everything is, so I could follow along much better. They conclude that Japanese companies localize for their markets, but also that their difference in approach is still limited in success. They middle when it comes to soft/hard sell techniques (although their numbers on US sites were notably higher). This suggests that even in the 2000s, localizing was still a huge, unknown area.

7. Singh, N., & Matsuo, H. (2002). Measuring cultural adaptation on the Web: A content analytic study of U.S. and Japanese Web sites. Journal of Business Research, 864-872.

Website Internationalization as building a template for a company that can be easily augmented depending on the local audience (localization) is actually a pretty neat concept,l and the first time I've cone across a study asserting that this can even be accomplished. They assert that cultural values are the best barometer to gauging how web content should change when grossing community and country lines. A random sample of 50 companies from the Forbes 500 list of domestic and international companies was the basis for choosing which websites to analyze. Their framework uses Hofstede's cultural dimensions, and then places sub-categories under the dimensions to categorize the data collected. While their conclusions are mind-blowing (they conclude the East and West do have different cultural values, shocker) their framework, and specifically their sub-categorization is a hugely useful tool for deciding along which lines I'd like to break up my own categories.

8. Mikitani, H. (2013, November 1). Rakuten’s CEO on Humanizing E-Commerce. Harvard Business Review, 47-50.

While not a robustly operationalized study, this interview with the founder and CEO of the 3rd largest online retailer word wide offers a a personal confirmation of some of the cultural practices described in the previously evaluated pieces. Mikitani continuously asserts that the personal aspect of brand building is what's important to customers. Although he doesn't ever say that this only goes for the Japanese market, a lot of his piece focuses on the growth of the Japan based business, and so hints that that is the market in question. One of the most amusing stories is of the first vendor to sell food on Rakuten. The man wanted to sell eggs, shipped overnight, and laid by chickens fed an organic diet (which produced, in his opinion, superior eggs). Mikitani gave the vendor a chance, and found that the vendor's constant posting of "personable" updates (pictures of the chickens, the secret behind his quality assurance testing) made consumers not only give his eggs a chance, but continue paying the premium for his product long after the novelty factor would have worn off. I believe having this native opinion will be a nice supporter of those common industry claims illustrated above.

9. Yang, H. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION AND WEBSITE LOCALIZATION FOR JAPAN. (2003). MultiLingual Computing & Technology, 16(8), 35-38.

This is the first to make a case for Search Engine Optimization, defined as "the process of fine-tuning the content, structure, coding, design and other elements of a website so that it can be ranked in the top positions in search engine results for certain query keywords". What a mouthful! The first thing they address is the difference between human-based search directories (Yahoo) and crawler-based search directories (Google). One has a human element and depends on editors assigning keywords to websites that allow them to show up on a search engine's results. The other auto-generates these keywords based on an algorithm and the page's contents.

What is best about this article is it touches on the language difference that makes localization in Asian countries so difficult. The example they give is an attempt to sell a product that in its English presentation is called "natural soap". In Japanese, the term "natural" can be represented by tenen, nachararu, shizen, or mutenka. Then there's the word soap, which can either be printed in Japanese as sekken or in its Romaji counterpart as so-pu. To compound this issue, "sekken" can be represented by all 3 Japanese alphabets in at least 5 ways, each being a hybrid between systems to write the same word. To combat this, the article recommends taking HTML tags very seriously, and making sure all bases are covered to increase the likelihood that one's page will get picked up by the search engine.

The article goes on for a while, but its value really lies in categorization. Generating traffic is bound to be important to any Internet business, so I'm sure the techniques described here are in practice now and effect localized web design.

10.  Kemper, S. (2009, June 1). Localizing websites and software for Japan. Retrieved May 2, 2015, from

The first thing Kemper does is advise businesses to localize from the gate, and I think that's a great assertion to make. What's even more helpful though is that he mentions that YouTube did start out fully globalized. You can type Japanese into the search engine, tags, and titles of videos and it all indexes and displays properly. He mentions a book from Ken Lunde titled CJKV Information Processing that was supposed to put out an updated edition in 2008, which is noted here for me to look up later. There's a lot of time talking about how the advent of Unicode has made going international simple, but what really stands out is the care paid to Japanese text differences. It says that Japanese characters are usually 30% taller than English characters, and that a Japanese sentence can be much longer than its  US counterpart once translated. Additionally, it confirms that the limited JP font choices usually do not include bold and italic options, and that when they do, it is best to steer clear of these for readability's sake. I had seen this asserted some in the scholarly research on syllabi I did, but this is a nice reassuring.

11. Suri, V., & Sawhney, H. (2008). The internet and its wireless extensions in Japan: The portentous interface between chaos and order. Info, 10-21.

As of 5/2/15, I'm not yet sure how to address mobile access in the view of web design in either the US or Japan. The platform greatly changes the layout and contents of the mobile environment- does that mean I should attempt to fold them into my framework and make a system to analyze both at once? Should I limit myself to desktop sites only and add a footnote that the mileage may vary with mobile content? Either way, assessing this article still feels like required reading since it covers the whole history of the mobile Internet market in Japan. There are some differences between Japan's "pocket wifi" and the current 3G system in America. For example, DoCoMo, the largest mobile provider in Japan, curates its net content by having "official" and "unofficial" web partners. This is a direct result of the phone manufacturer and the service provider being the same institution. Those who have gone through DoCoMo's approval process are given direct billing through the company, sharing int he proceeds, but automatically receiving better promotion and optimization than the "unofficial" sites. Still, most of that "Curating" is a result of the 2G Japan business model and is fading from relevance as technology allows content to me more universally accessible.

Engl685 - Pain and Panic, Reporting for Duty!

Grad panic is so unique from Undergrad panic! They say that at a certain point, you can't feel fear anymore because the fear level is too great for your senses to handle. I think this is like that. Aside from a little shake in the fingers, there's really not a whole lot going on, despite the fact that I am grossly unprepared to hand things in beginning on Monday.

Today, I put a stake in the annotated bibs I am behind and begin to move forward. Godspeed, future me.