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How to avoid stereotypes when designing for global markets

  • Tech
  • designer
  • Culture
  • User experience
  • User interface

How to avoid stereotypes when designing for global markets

Jon Vieira
Story by
Jon Vieira

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Designers at global companies frequently work with geographically broadcast teams. We also consistently work on agenda accessories advised for global burning for admirers amid all over the world. Yet designers, apathy there’s a wider world out there, abide to live in a bubble and tend to focus only on their local culture, traditions, and language.

Cross-cultural design indisputably presents circuitous challenges—both linguistic and cultural. Nevertheless, most designers abominably assume that designing accessories for altered cultures simply requires accent adaptation (localization), switching currencies, and afterlight a few images to represent the local culture. The road to acknowledged cross-cultural design with great UX is far more complicated and rife with pitfalls.

Who can forget the seminal cautionary tale of why Chevrolet’s “Nova” failed in Latin America? The story claims the branding failed because the name “Nova” means “no go” in Spanish. This tale of abominable branding has been anecdotal to ancestors of business acceptance as an object lesson in the abortion to do reliable, all-embracing cross-cultural research. There’s only one botheration with the story: It’s not true.

When launched in India in late 2018, Amazon was faced with a austere botheration caused by a lack of cultural acumen and absolute UX research. They couldn’t figure out why barter in India weren’t using one of their primary drivers for revenue: analytic for accessories to buy on the homepage of the mobile site. It turned out that the accumulative glass icon was not commodity people associated with search in India. It made no sense at all to them.

When the UI was tested, most people anticipation the icon represented a ping-pong paddle! As a solution, Amazon kept the accumulative glass but added a search field with a Hindi text label to let people know this was where they could admit a search.

Cross-cultural design challenges with Amazon India mobile site
After advertent a annual problem, Amazon India had to change their mobile site to board a search field and a Hindi text label for “Search.”

When designing cross-cultural products, designers not only have to argue with altered languages, dialects, and dimensions of civic culture but also cultural differences in color psychology and mental models. Furthermore, annual administration from ability to ability adds addition layer of complication as text can be accounting left-to-right (LTR), right-to-left (RTL), and top-to-bottom.

With some languages, “mirroring designs” is commodity designers need to accede when designing for both LTR and RTL languages. Consideration should be given to aggregate from text to images, to aeronautics patterns and CTAs (calls-to-action).

Here’s Facebook’s homepage in English:

Cross-cultural user interface design Facebook in English

And here’s Facebook’s homepage in Arabic where the layout is antipodal (mirrored):

Cross-cultural user interface design Facebook in Arabic

Using culturally adapted adumbration in accessories all-encompassing across cultures is also commodity designers need to be aware of. An image that may be altogether adequate in Western cultures may be advised inappropriate in some Middle Eastern countries. Varying attitudes appear gender, clothing, and adoration in altered parts of the world call for designers to be extra accurate when alive with images.

If a artist is not accustomed with a accurate culture, it’s acute that they address some time to researching what is adapted in tone from ability to culture, being sure to board every aspect in the UI: text, imagery, iconography, microcopy, and more.

Designers also have to annual for text in altered languages, known as “text expansion.” Alive with English, German, and Japanese for the same piece of text will yield very altered results. Going from English to Italian phrases will at times cause text amplification of around 300%! Not accounting for differences in word lengths in a array of languages or giving UI elements ample added will create a boatload of work down the line because a tsunami of screens will need to be adapted to board the switch to addition language.

Text amplification issues in cross-cultural design
The sign for the adaptation office administrator in German.

The seven ambit of cross-cultural design

Designing for global markets has been around for a long time and predates designing for agenda products. Cross-cultural design assay is rooted in the work of two individuals: Fons Trompenaars and Geert Hofstede.

Trompenaars is widely known for “The Seven Ambit of Culture,” a model he appear in “Riding the Waves of Culture.” The model is the result of interviews with more than 46,000 managers in 40 countries.

Rather than adapted cultures simply by language, Trompenaars accustomed seven adapted qualities:

  • Universalism versus particularism. Do people place value on rules, laws, and dogma? Or do they accept the world to be circumstantial?
  • Individualism versus communitarianism. Do people accept in claimed abandon and achievement? Or is the group greater than the individual?
  • Specific versus diffuse. Are work and claimed lives kept abstracted or do they overlap?
  • Neutral versus emotional. Do people make great efforts to accurate their affections or are they kept in control?
  • Achievement versus ascription. Are people valued for what they do or who they are?
  • Sequential time versus ancillary time. Some people like events to happen in a alveolate sequence. Others accept that the past, present, and future are an abstruse continuum.
  • Internal administration versus outer direction. Some cultures acknowledge to ascendancy nature and the environment, while others accept the opposite.

Hofstede also contests commonly narrow views of accent and culture. Everyone knows that our spoken accents advance based on where we grew up. Less talked about, though, is that how we feel and act is also a type of accent afflicted by our locale.

The cultural ambit represent cultural tendencies that analyze countries (rather than individuals) from each other. The country scores on the ambit are relative, as we are all human, and accompanying we are all unique. In other words, ability can be only used advisedly by comparison.

Design and culture: differences amid countries in cultural dimensions
Comparing differences in cultural ambit in Argentina and China with Hofstede’s country comparison tool

How cultural ambit may access design

Let’s look at three examples in cultural differences with regard to how people acknowledge to authority, whether people see themselves as individuals or a part of a group, and how adequate people in altered cultures are with uncertainty. The examples cross into cross-cultural user acquaintance design and behavioral design and are all aspects to accede when designing for altered cultures.

How do users acknowledge to authority?

Hofstede placed every country about on his power ambit index (PDI), which abstinent how societies accept power inequality. Some cultures expect advice to come from an accurate position, admitting others put less stock in ability and certification.

The implications of this for digital design are that accurate accent or adumbration may accomplish well in high-power ambit cultures, but users in low-power ambit cultures may acknowledge abnormally to the same and would prefer to see commodity closer to the less breezy accepted adumbration of accustomed life.

Do people see themselves as individuals or as part of a group?

How do we actuate people in an adapted ability versus a collectivist one? Does our artefact advance alone or aggregate success? How do we reward users? Some societies place accent on youth, admitting wisdom and acquaintance are valued elsewhere. Hofstede measures this on the individualism vs. collectivism index (IDV). Countries with high numbers on the index are more individualistic.

How adequate are people with uncertainty?

When it comes to the uncertainty avoidance (UAI) dimension, cultures that rely less on rules and adherence acknowledge to more affecting indicators. Conversely, a association that is afflictive with ambiguity prefers clear and audible choices. How do these altered cultures react to commodity unexpected, unknown, or away from the status quo?

For example, Germany scores high on the IDV index; therefore, it about avoids uncertainty. Accordingly, accessories advised for Germany, for example, should give people a rational arrangement of decisions to make. Countries that are lower on the scale can board people with more abandon and a airy assay of the artefact with more accent on emotion.

What about risk abhorrence in a culture? For instance, if acutely risk-averse Japanese barter are adapted to submit their credit card advice anon during allotment for an eCommerce site, it will most likely result in a high rate of abandonment.

How does ability access design?

The accent of user assay in cross-cultural design

Gaining micro-level insights through direct ascertainment is at the center of human-centered design thinking methodology. When agreeable in cross-cultural design projects, proper user assay is vital for accomplishing bland agenda user adventures across borders. Typically, this means accepting out into the field to meet people where they live and work, which helps designers accept accurate needs and brainstorm pertinent future possibilities.

People in assorted cultures collaborate with advice in altered ways. People in Russia are used to altered cultural conventions when using agenda products, as against to people in Egypt. The need for designers to thoroughly assay and accept local customs, cultural dimensions, cross-cultural psychology, and local UI patterns cannot be chaste as it will either lead to success or result in failure.

Research may absorb attractive into the primary accessories used by the target market and abeyant challenges with internet connectivity. With less able accessories on poor arrangement connections, designers could take advantage of AMP technology (accelerated mobile pages), use adaptive design, or use progressive web apps to speed up mobile sites. They can also design mobile apps in a way that detect poor arrangement access and after serve up stripped-down core functionalities, acceptance them to work offline or with spotty connections.

Qualitative assay design

Additionally, not only is it capital to have a local native apostle check adapted language, it’s appropriately important to have a agreeable specialist accomplish cultural checks. This includes blockage images, colors, abbreviations, phrases, and idioms to make sure they’re culturally adapted and bell with the local audience.

To dig deep into local customs, behaviors, and attitudes, it’s best to do both  and  research.  UX assay may absorb interviews, intercepts, and contextual observations, ethnographic studies, and field studies;  research may board aggressive analysis, accessory research, and surveys.

 user assay is a direct appraisal of behavior based on observation. It’s about compassionate people’s behavior and practices on their terms. For example, celebratory people in their accustomed ambiance gives designers a better compassionate of the way people live and use agenda products, which helps them design accessories that are absolutely accordant to them.

 research is primarily basic assay and is used to quantify the botheration by way of breeding data that can be adapted into useful statistics. Some accepted data accumulating methods board assorted forms of surveys, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and artefact usage analytics.

Cross-cultural user acquaintance design for an Arabic food acclimation app
Researching local phrases, idioms, and community for text and images is vital in cross-cultural design.

Cross-cultural design tools, workflows, and fonts

Looking at the applied side of a cross-cultural design project, designers need to address a ample amount of time to select the best design tools. Many design tools don’t offer full abutment of fonts, or assertive characters for a array of languages; for example, Russian Cyrillic, Japanese, Arabic, or Chinese. Designers need to anxiously accede their design tools and workflow (especially if using assorted design tools) and their final deliverables. Testing the cross-cultural design workflow during the early stages of the activity is crucial.

Some adopted accent fonts may work on the desktop in a design tool but will not render as advised on the web with the web font version. Web fonts board abutment for many altered languages, but not all, therefore, designers will need to anxiously select fonts that abutment a accurate accent or script. Consulting with developers early about appearance encodings, using web fonts, and font embedding depending on the type of agenda artefact (site or app) will later pay off in spades, as will all-encompassing testing and QA.

Cross-cultural design and web font apprehension issues
A UTF-8-encoded Japanese Wikipedia commodity displayed on the web if interpreted as Windows-1252 encoding.

Cross-cultural design is not a walk in the park. Designers not only have to argue with assorted cross-cultural design challenges but also often have to bridge the cultural divide with admirers in terms of advice styles, battle with design tools and web browsers not apprehension fonts or adopted accent characters correctly, text amplification in assorted languages, and issues using their keyboards to input and edit a array of languages.

Working across borders amid designers and admirers may present addition set of challenges. For example, the author (a Brazilian designer) worked on a activity with a Russian client and had to actively engage the cultural divide amid the client and himself throughout the design action to avoid any misunderstandings.

When it came to alive on the project, issues occurred with Cyrillic fonts in altered design tools not apprehension correctly. Without a Cyrillic keyboard for text input and edits, an on-screen Cyrillic keyboard had to be used, which slowed things down dramatically.

How does ability access design?

Cross-cultural design needs adapted attention

As many companies abide to analyze global business opportunities, they will be challenged to adapt to the local characteristics of assorted new markets, the sociopolitical environment, and the cultural system. Understandably, global business leaders want to get their accessories to the market as bound as possible, but in order to offer best-in-class user experiences, cross-cultural design requires adapted attention. Great UX is rooted in the accurate assay of social and cultural context, and often it’s up to the designers to put the brakes on and call for a slowdown.

An capital part of the design cerebration action is assuming in-depth UX research: exploring what people say, think, do, and feel to bare fresh insights that help design human-centered solutions. Expert UX designers know design projects that cross borders need to be researched and tested thoroughly.

Designers have always risen to the claiming as they work at the circle of cultural and abstruse trends, whether in agenda or concrete products. When done well, a anxiously accomplished artefact design will bell with the ability of the admirers that it was advised for.

Cross-cultural design invites designers to embark on a road less traveled. At times it may become a little bumpy. As long as designers accept the seven cultural dimensions, seek an abreast perspective, and investigate the best workflows, tools, and processes, they will complete the adventure successfully.

Appear May 29, 2020 — 06:00 UTC

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