The numbers of online consumers is rapidly growing in diverse country locations. Users may have a distinct preference for a local website over a foreign website. There are many online marketing companies that have different websites for customers of different countries. The objective of this study is to find out whether or not there is a significant preference of the customers for the local website for overall effective website design. In the past Cyr and Trevor-Smith (2004) examined design elements using 30 municipal websites in each of Germany, Japan, and the U.S. Design elements considered were use of symbols and graphics, color preferences, site features, language and content. Significant modal differences were found in each of the listed categories, and suggest distinctive design preferences across these countries. However no such study was done in the Indian context.
Cyr, Kindra and Dash (2005) studied the Indian consumer’s preference for Local vs. Foreign Website. The participants in the study were asked to respond to a local version of the Indian Samsung website, and a foreign version of the website used by customers of Hong Kong. The participants were told to hypothetically browse both foreign and local Samsung website for purchasing mobile. The sample composed of 219 post-graduate students from the Indian Institute of Management at Lucknow in India of which 198 were finally chosen after removing incomplete responses.
The nine web site design elements menu layout, access to product information, professional design of the website, logical presentation of product information, screen design, navigation, sequencing, presentation of product attributes, and product availability measuring the effective website design elements were chosen for the study. Participants were first told to browse local web site and then they were told to view the foreign website and express their preferences in the survey questionnaire.
After relevant literature review (Eg. Alvarez et al. 1998), Cyr et al. 2003a, Cyr et al. 2003b, Cyr and Trevor-Smith 2004, Lagon 2000) the following hypotheses were proposed.
H1: The local website will be preferred over the foreign website of the same online vendor for the following specific design elements: (a) menu layout (b) access to product information (c) professional design of the website (d) logical presentation of product information (e) screen design (f) navigation (g) sequencing (h) presentation of product attributes, and (i) product availability.
H2: The local website will be preferred over the foreign website of the same online vendor for the following set of affective characteristics: (a) successful-unsuccessful (b) professional-amateur (c) fast-slow (d) pretty-ugly (e) emotional-unemotional (f) logical-illogical (g) friendly-unfriendly (h) sensitive-insensitive (i) meaningful-meaningless (j) warm-cold (k) accurate-inaccurate (l) interesting-boring (m) reliable-reliable (n) stimulating-boring, and (o) comfortable-uncomfortable.
All items were constructed as agree-disagree statements on a traditional 5 point Likert scale. Respondents also completed an inventory of additional items related to affective characteristics of the website as identified in hypothesis 2. Mean scores and ANOVA has been conducted to test above hypothesis. They were used in order to determine if statistically significant differences occurred between the local and foreign sites.
In support of Hypothesis 1[a], [b], [c], [d], [e], [f], [g], [h], and [i], users had a clear preference for the Indian Samsung website over the foreign Samsung Hong Kong website related to menu layout, access to product information, logical presentation of product information, screen design, navigation, sequencing, presentation of product attributes, and product availability. This is clear from the ANOVA table shown in Table 1.
In support of Hypothesis 2 (a), (b), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), (m), (n), and (o) participants perceived the local website to be more successful, professional, emotional, logical, friendly, sensitive, meaningful, warm, accurate, interesting, reliable, stimulating and comfortable than the foreign website. This result is shown in the second ANOVA table (table 2). Hypothesis 2 (c) and (d) were not supported in that there were no perceived differences for the local website over the foreign website for whether the website was fast or pretty.
Based on the findings from this study, it appears that users have a distinct preference for a local website over a foreign website. There were significant preferences for the local site for all the design elements tested. Although there are financial costs associated with website localization, the results suggest that the online companies should appropriately localize their websites to ensure that the customers’ preference for the local website increase and then the benefits to the online company shall outweigh the costs. The present study has a major limitation on sampling.
Although the sampling frame fixed used for the study though representative of population, accommodates only a defined stratum (only students of an elite institute) of Indian society. This obviously limits scope of generalization of study. The limited sample used for the study, limits the scope of application of the results of study to broader consumer groups with varying interests.