Cultural differences and the structure of user instructions: Effects of Chinese and Western structuring principles on Chinese and Western users

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2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Although various researchers have paid attention to differences in the way Chinese and Western documents are structured, only few have investigated how Chinese and Western users differ in their way of using instructions. This study experimentally investigates the effects Chinese and Western manual structures have on Chinese and Western users, in terms of task performance, user satisfaction, and information selection. Method: A 3x2 randomized experiment (N = 127) was conducted, with participants’ cultural background (Chinese living in China, Chinese living in the Netherlands, and Westerners) and manual structure (Chinese versus Western) as independent variables and task performance, user satisfaction, and information selection as dependent variables. Supported by a manual, participants performed tasks with Excel and afterwards filled out a satisfaction questionnaire. To investigate information selection, eye-tracking data were collected. Results: Regarding task performance and user satisfaction, no significant main and interaction effects were found. Regarding information selection, our research confirmed some of the hypothesized differences between Chinese and Western users: Chinese users pay less attention to structuring elements (table of contents and headings) and more attention to visuals. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that cultural adaptations of the structure of manuals do not really matter: Chinese and Western users perform equally well and have similar satisfaction scores with Western and Chinese manual structures. Paradoxically, the differences found in users’ information selection behaviors provided some support for the differences in document design practices. However, users of both cultures appear to be sufficiently flexible in using instructions that are not culturally adapted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-55
Number of pages19
JournalTechnical communication
Volume68
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Cultural differences
  • Information selection
  • User instructions
  • User satisfaction

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