The I, the Me and the Web

I have been pottering around the web over the last few days finding things to do on an upcoming trip to the States.  What I have noticed it that one can usually tell whether a site is American or British (aside from the obvious .co.uk).  It was actually an ice hockey page that triggered the thought that I want to explore a little more below – http://capitals.nhl.com/.  As you will notice, there is a lot going on and to me it screams USA!  What I wondered was, whether a national identity in conveyed in website marketing as much as anywhere else.  I.e. can you immediately tell from the layout of a website where it is from as much as someone’s accent?

I was thinking that this would only apply to English language-based sites but actually, it can apply to pretty much any language and national identity.  German-speakers aren’t necessarily based in or selling to a German audience and also, the automatic page translators can make it easier to see content in a language you can understand.

Perhaps an example would be easier.  Let’s start with something obvious – http://www.whitehouse.gov/ and http://www.parliament.uk/. To me, the White House site seems more overtly patriotic, common images of the flag, the President and a catchy ad tag line.  The British, subtle, more crowded with no clear leader (no comment!).

If we move to something like sports, it is a similar story – http://www.manutd.com/en.aspx and http://capitals.nhl.com/.  These two are actually more similar in layout but to me, it is still clear which comes from where.

So what I am pondering now, is whether national identity has fed through into website design; audiences are more drawn to certain things in certain countries.  Or, if it the other way around, that design agencies are creating things that reflect what they perceive as a national image and put that out onto the net.

I realise that this is rather a small sample but it is something that has set my cogs working.  It is of course, reliant on a number of things when one designs a website – audience and amount of information for example but I think it would be interesting to find out more about the link between how one sees one’s own national identity and how this is reflected on the web.

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