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Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a federation of the former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the federation in 1965. There is a strong interlink between the country's multi-racial and multicultural make-up and its history. Besides the local Malays and the native groups, immigrants from China, India, Indonesia and other parts of the world have all contributed to the multiracial composition of its population.

Malaysia has a growing and vibrant consumer market of well over 20,000,000, distinguished by a multi cultural mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and many other smaller populations of Western and Japanese expatriates.

There are strict laws relating to the advertising code, competition, quality standards and ethnic and religious discrimination which need to be taken into account in market and consumer research undertakings in Malaysia.


Prevalence and state of user research

Usability research is still not as popular in Malaysia as compared to other countries.


Testing facilities

Availability and location

Dedicated usability labs or facilities are not commonly found in Malaysia. However, standard focus group rooms are common and can be found in most market research agencies in the country.



Should special equipment be required for a research study, it will need to be brought into the country.


Language and translation considerations

While Bahasa Malayu is the national language spoken Malaysians are generally free to speak their mother tongues. English is spoken widely in Malaysia but few people speak it well.

Generally, their overall level of understanding of the language is low and Malaysian respondents may have a limited English vocabulary to express their opinions and thoughts about technology. Thus, the chances of affecting the test results by conducting sessions in English are relatively high.

Despite the language issue within Malaysia as a whole, most people living in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, are generally comfortable with speaking English. Thus, they are more likely to understand the requirements of the research studies better and be more expressive than the local people living in other Malaysian cities or towns. Nevertheless, should a study be required to be held in the rural parts of Malaysia, an interpreter will generally be needed on site during testing to provide on the spot translations.


Travel and transportation

Travel to and from this country

Being one of the urbanized countries around the world, accesability to Malaysia is excellent. Most international air carriers offer flights to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Several cruise lines also provide stops in Malaysia.

Other than the two common means mentioned earlier to get to Malaysia, it is also possible to enter the country via rail from either Singapore or Thailand. Air-conditioned buses are also available from these neighboring countries to Malaysia. Apart from the capital city of KualaLumpur, other major international airports which serve as entry points are Penang, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi.

Travel within this country

Most parts of Malaysia are very accessible. Malaysia has excellent domestic air links and a well developed and effective public transportation system served by buses, taxis and trains. There are two light-rail transport (LRT) across the capital of Malaysia




Cultural considerations


Malaysia is a multicultural and multilingual country made up of Malays (60%), Chinese (30%), Indians and other minority races (10%).  

Islam is the official religion for Malaysia, however Malaysians are generally free to choose their own religions and beliefs.  Malaysians also have the freedom to celebrate their cultural festivals and participate in the other cultural activities that shape their general behavior, attitudes and perceptions. The unique cultural landscape of Malaysia can therefore affect the performance and outcome of usability tests being conducted there and should be taken into account when planning a study. 

Although there are a total of 13 states and 3 federal territories in Malaysia, the population distribution is highly uneven throughout the country. Most of the Malaysians are generally located in Peninsula Malaysia, while East Malaysia is comparatively less populated. Among the various cities, Kuala Lumpur has the highest population rate followed by Subang Jaya.

Malaysia, as a whole, has little poverty, especially those who are living in the cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The people tend to be middle to higher class, thus allowing them to have higher disposable incomes and spending power than those living in the suburbs. With that, those residing in the cities are generally more brand conscious and tend to receive better education. In general, the living expenses in Malaysia are relatively high compared to its neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. However, it is still much lower than its nearest neighbor – Singapore. 


Communication style

Malaysians’ general lack of experiences with participating in usability tests is very evident. In terms of language or ways of communicating, Malaysians are generally more conservative than Singaporeans or Westerners. The Malaysians may not be as open-minded or vocal compared to Westerners in terms of expressing their views and may not be as open with providing inputs or voicing their opinions. They are also more passive and reactive in terms of responding to questions asked and afraid of saying the wrong or irrelevant things. This might be a result of the culture and environment.


Comfort using technology
Malaysia is often cited as front-runner in information technology implementation in the developing world. Since 1991, in carrying out its plan for the future titled Vision 2020, Malaysia has experienced robust economic growth while modernizing its infrastructure and society as a whole. With the aim of turning Malaysia into a fully developed country, the vision also recognizes the impact and role technology plays in enriching the lives of its people and the importance of establishing a foundation of technology literacy. The Malaysian government realizing the importance of information technology, has been spurring investments in creating the Multimedia Super Corridor project.

In Malaysia, computers started to play a prominent role in schools with the launching of the Computer Literacy Pilot Project (CLPP) in 1986 for secondary (Form Four) school students . The current trend appears to be towards integrating computer technology and instruction within subject areas that is taught in schools such as Science and Mathematics, as well as toward the creation of software especially aimed at enhancing the usage of computers so that it would bring fortha fresh look on instruction and learning. Besides with the advent of World-Wide Web had given
students easy and rapid access to ample multimedia information, flexible communication through electronic mail, and a variety of components that help students communicate visually and verbally with their friends locally and internationally (Sia, 2000). A good example of this would be the launch of Bahasa Melayu Local Interface Pack (LIP) that is available for almost all Windows packages.

Unfortunately comfort using technology is limited to the younger generation and urbanized cities only.


User research insights per country...