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The Effect of Culture on Usability: Comparing the Perceptions and Performance of Taiwanese and North American MP3 Player Users

Steve Wallace and Hsiao-Cheng Yu

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 3, May 2009, pp. 136-146

Article Contents


Correlations Between Usability and Culture

It is also interesting to see how significantly culture is correlated with the variables associated with usability. The following table indicates the correlations (r) between the variables measured in this study. The degree of correlation is indicated by the closeness of the correlation measure to 1 or -1. A result of 0 indicates an absence of correlation, while a result of over 0.5 or -0.5 shows a moderate to strong association. There is disagreement about where exactly the cutoff for a moderate or a strong correlation lies. In this study r values from 0.5 to 0.7 or from -0.5 to -0.7 indicate a moderate correlation, while r values above 0.7 or below -0.7 (shown in bold) indicate a strong correlation. Weak correlations, an absence of correlation, or statistically insignificant correlations (p >= 0.05) are not shown in this table.

Table 4. Correlations Between Factors in Usability for Both Culture Groups
  Culture No. of Errors Effectiveness Efficiency Satisfaction
User Perceptions
Total perceived usability -0.501* -0.590** 0.634** 0.755*** 0.744***
User satisfaction -0.633** -0.687*** 0.787*** 0.694***  
Efficiency -0.579** -0.593**      
Effectiveness -0.774***        
User Performance
No. of Errors 0.588**        

* = p < 0.05
** = p < 0.01
*** = p < 0.001

The results in Table 4 confirm the alternative hypothesis. Culture clearly is correlated with many of the factors that make up usability. Firstly, culture is moderately to strongly associated with perceptions of usability. In particular, culture has a strong association with perceptions of effectiveness but was only moderately associated with other perceptions of usability. The negative correlation shown in some cells reflects the numbers used to represent the different cultures for statistical purposes. Taiwanese and North American cultures were represented by the numbers 1 and 2 respectively. So the negative correlation between culture and effectiveness reflects the impression North American subjects had of the lack of effectiveness of the product.

Secondly, culture is also directly linked to a user's actual efficiency when using the device, as shown by the number of errors. It is also possible that culture indirectly affected perceptions of usability. The number of errors had a negative correlation with variables representing perceptions of usability. As the number of errors increased, perceptions of effectiveness, satisfaction, and overall perceptions of usability fell.

While not strictly related to this study, it is also clear that perceptions of usability shared some correlation. Perceptions of effectiveness and efficiency were moderately positively correlated with user satisfaction. Understandably, total perceived usability was correlated with the variables that it comprises-effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. It also shows an extremely moderate relationship with cultural background and the number of errors, possibly as a result of its indirect relationship with these variables.

Interestingly, one measure of efficiency, task completion time, showed no significant correlation with any other variables measured in this study. While the other indicator of efficiency, the number of errors, showed a strong connection to many perceptions of usability. The lack of correlation between two measures of efficiency, time taken and number of errors, combined with the lack of correlation between time taken and any other variable raises questions as to the usefulness of this variable as a measure of efficiency.

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