Cross cultural UX design: Differences matter

In part one of this story – Cross-cultural UX design: Businesses with a global outlook – we discussed exactly how culture affects our perception of UX design, and we also began to discuss the elements of UX design that are crucial to pay attention to. In part two, we’ll continue to explore these aspects and uncover how we can ensure cross-cultural UX design success by acknowledging differences and avoiding bias.

Keep in mind the local factors

Language and tone of the text itself is crucial, and play a huge role in how the user interacts with the information. Countries that speak the same language can still differ in terms of the dialect and tone they might prefer, so making informed lexical choices is vital for connecting with a certain audience.

With regard to more format-based elements of UX design, designers should consider things like how dates and measurements are formatted in different countries and whether the direction of the text is left to right, or vice versa. The same goes for time zones and notification timings: UX designers need to consider where users are and when push notifications are most likely to be effective. For example, sending notifications to users while they’re sleeping or on their daily commute could result in the opposite effect of what companies are looking to achieve, by forcing users to delete the app due to notifications at inconvenient times.

Finally, there’s little point in putting all this effort into adapting language and format to fit a certain culture if the app features themselves are irrelevant or feel inaccessible to that population. It’s crucial that companies fully evaluate the need and impact of their product and how well it fits into local needs and preferences. If this means changing or adding to it, then so be it.

Just take a look at Uber: In countries with a heavily cash-based economy, drivers accept cash payments, and the ride-sharing platform even offers boat rides in Istanbul, where people often avoid traffic by travelling on water.

Acknowledge differences but avoid bias

Ultimately, the goals of these products that launch in various locations with a global focus is to improve the lives of those using them. The intended disruption needs to be positive, otherwise the product has failed. This makes it crucial for companies to get their UX design right: If not, their product will simply not reach its desired audience.

While acknowledging cultural differences and adapting products according to them, UX designers need to be careful to avoid biases that might take over during design decisions. For example, countries in Latin America are culturally distinct from each other, and each have their own attitudes and customs: Just because users in these countries mostly speak Spanish doesn’t mean that they can be lumped together into one cultural category. Doing this will result in culture generalization, and ultimately, failure.

UX designers can avoid bias and understand the cultural accessibility of their product by always conducting usability testing with its broad international target audience. Conducting research and usability tests will help with spotting the pain points of different demographics and cultural contexts. By working on continuously validating decisions and hypotheses with the users, UX designers can make sure to never lean too much on their own personal biases.

Make sure you really understand

Undoubtedly, doing research is one of the main priorities for global companies and products. If companies understand how their users think and feel, they'll have a higher chance of gaining their trust and satisfying them. This research can be done with online tools that guide the user through the product where they can discover things like how long certain users spend completing certain tasks, and how they interact with different features generally.

Without cross-cultural UX design, products aimed at global growth are ultimately doomed to fail due to a lack of user connection and loyalty. Ultimately, an adaptive, conscious, and well-informed UX design is the best way to prevent this. By curating a UX design with the target culture in mind, businesses will in turn create a successful global product that is functional, relevant, and attractive to its users no matter where they live.

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