My First Cross Cultural Web Project

An article by David Brooks on July 13, 2007

 

Recently I had the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for quite awhile, work on an international site. It didn’t come as I had expected, not as a result of missions work or a friend calling me up from another country, rather I learned about the organization through Godbit.com. Godbit is a Christian online community devoted to God with an emphasis on web design. After a few months of work my contact from Sweden, his co-workers and I have launched CredoAkademin.nu

I’m a little late in writing this article, I should have written it last month… Regardless of my tardiness I thought I would write about my experience in working on a website in a language you don’t understand and in a culture that isn’t your own.

My contact was Mats Wall, a qualified web guy who was very dedicated to the project and passionate about giving his community the best website possible. You could tell from working with him that he wanted to deliver the content to his community and Sweden in general in the best possible and most appropriate ways. He’s also a web standards guy to the core, and that’s always a great thing.

My role was a bit different than normal, for me anyway. I was part consultant, part designer, part coder. This role was the role of flexibility and filling in the gaps. When I started to work with Mats they had already begun construction of the website, I don’t think they ever really lost speed on the project either, mostly thanks to Mats.

The design is based on an open source template created by Andreas Viklund though I haven’t seen the original template I would venture to say that there’s probably a big difference between what they started with and the final product. But, that was all in place before I got there.

CredoAkademin is running on the Expression Engine content management system, I may write an article about my experiences with that in the future, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. One interesting thing that caught me off guard was the initial login to the CMS. I followed the directions to the login screen and… it was in Swedish. Now, I may speak a few other languages but I haven’t ever had the opportunity to pick up Swedish, well until this project anyway. (and I can only read it sometimes, on a good day, if I’m lucky and the words are close enough to English.) So, Mats guided me through the maze of a CMS into the options so that I could change my language to something I could grasp, once that was taken care of it was smooth sailing.

While we were working with the online bookstore section I was asked to create some graphics to illustrate the checkout process. Mats had given me a shopping cart graphic that he really liked and asked me to try it. After that I thought I would try to make some other graphics to fit the style. As I was trying to design a package to illustrate the shipping stage a funny thought hit me: “I have no idea what color boxes they use in the Swedish postal system!” Now, that may seem like a ridiculous question, but I didn’t want to be the guy from the States that didn’t take into consideration that the post office could sell boxes in any color. Maybe they use green boxes, maybe it’s a tradition to have a special design on the box, something that I might not know since I’m an outsider, and you don’t want your site to look like an outsider designed it do you? I think Mats got a kick out of it, but he assured me that the boxes in Sweden were still brown and cardboard.

I really enjoyed working on this project and if Mats is any representation of the group at CredoAkademin I would say they have a great group of people working together. It’s very nice to see people that want to use the web to connect with culture in a unique way, my hope from here is that I got out of the way enough to let that connection take place.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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