Enhancing understandability of process models through cultural-dependentcolor adjustments

Tyge-F Kummer, Jan Recker, Jan Mendling

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


National culture influences natural language communication. Yet, semi-formal or documented communication media such as process models have largely ignored these influences. In process models, secondary notation elements such as colors, however, provides designers with visual cues to potentially increase the efficiency and effectiveness without changing the semantics of the model itself. We propose that colors are a promising mechanism in tailoring process models to meet cultural preferences in order to enhance understandability. We test this assumption through an experiment with postgraduate students from a Confucian culture (China) and a Germanic Culture (Germany and Austria). Past research has shown that people understand such models better if important elements are highlighted through colors. We hypothesize that this general design principle only works if the applied color schemes match cultural preferences while mismatches can even diminish the level of understanding. Our results show that colors that are preferred in Asian cultures aid process model understandability of Confucian participants. In contrast, diverse effects occur if models with these colors are provided to members of a Germanic culture. Based on our findings, we derive implications for the culturally appropriate presentation of conceptual process models and we emphasize a need to construct modeling studies with cultural values and norms in mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 12
JournalDecision Support Systems (DSS)
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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