We live in a vibrant world with thousands of distinct cultures existing side by side. The massive scale of globalization within the past half a century presupposed people mingling into a single melting pot. But the outcomes of that process appeared surprisingly different.
The modern focus on diversity and eradicating institutional racism made cultural groups visible even within the boundaries of other states. That change urged businesses to respect and account for those differences in design. Thus, at present, any provider of SaaS design services should understand the essentials of cross-cultural user experience design to succeed in its international operations.
There are many methods to incorporate different cultures into your UX design framework. The companies’ efforts range from the minimal multi-lingual effort of content translation to full-scale design adaptation and localization. Here we outline the key directions in which you should work to ensure that your design meets the cultural profile of your target users.
Why Opt for Cross-Cultural Design?
First, let’s clarify whether cross-cultural design is a must. Some businesses ignore this point, thinking that a generic UX design approach aimed at English-speaking white people will work universally for everyone. However, businesses adopting a cross-cultural approach note a sizable increase in conversion and customer loyalty rates. Besides, they have achieved business process optimization and better ROI. The reasons for these business gains are:
- People’s greater loyalty to a brand that respects their cultural background
- Simpler design process and meaningful manufacturing
- Compliance with the best international design practices
- A better understanding of users’ needs, wants, and pain points
Thus, looking at this list of cross-cultural design pros, you should take a closer look at this alternative to the generic, non-sensitive “one-size-fits-all” approach to UX.
Culture and Color
The product’s visual design is an essential determinant of the customer’s purchase decision. And more interestingly, people in different countries are differently affected by your color choices. What appeals to users in, say, Latin America will irritate and push away Asian consumers. Thus, it is vital to dig deeper into the color esthetics and perception of different cultures to develop relevant designs for each market.
Let’s consider a couple of examples as an illustration.
- Red. Indians perceive red as a symbol of purity, while for Westerners and residents of the Middle East, it is a symbol of danger and caution. The Chinese use red as the symbol of luck and happiness. There is also a stable association of red with excitement, urgency, and love in the West.
- Green. In the West, green symbolizes nature, the environment, and good luck. However, in Indonesia, the color has a strong negative connotation as a symbol of exorcism. The Chinese and Indonesians also use green as a symbol of marital infidelity, while in Mexico, it is the color of death.
- White. In most cultures, white is a symbol of purity. It is often used in wedding accessories and dresses. Still, in the Asian culture, it symbolizes death and mourning.
As you can see, colors are perceived differently by the representatives of different cultures. Thus, you should be extra cautious when choosing brand colors and product design. It’s vital to avoid sad, unpleasant color associations to achieve your business goals.
You might be surprised to know that representatives of different cultures perceive the website’s or app’s visual layout differently. For example, Western users find elegant, minimalist designs more appealing. They don’t like overcrowded pages and want intuitive, minimalist menus for clarity of navigation. Asians, on the contrary, favor more crowded pages with multiple functions and sections.
Translation vs. Localization
The content of your website should also be cross-cultural to match the overall UX design concept. There is a number of ways to achieve the cross-cultural effect of the website’s texts:
- Translation. It’s the simplest approach to website adaptation, as it doesn’t involve any design tweaks. You only translate your web content into the language of your users to help them access your services. However, this minimal effort also comes with minimal positive impact. Translations sometimes work pretty badly, spoiling the original design and confusing the users. The worst variant is automated translation, which rarely delivers upon its promise and makes your website’s multi-lingual versions non-usable.
- Localization. You need to adapt visual design to different cultures and hire a local translator who will bring the content into a readable, appealing form. This option requires more effort and dedication from you, but it always pays off.
How to Make Design Culturally Sensitive?
Now, it’s time to proceed from ideas to practices. What can help you make your UX design truly cross-cultural? Here are some preliminary stages that will give you the right direction in design solutions.
#1 User research
The best way to understand your target audience is to ask them what they think and want. You should go online or offline to the places where your target users are active and observe their behavior in natural settings. By understanding them better, you can develop a set of user personas and build UX design around these profiles.
#2 Cultural differences
It’s always reassuring for people to see that you know their cultural context and give them custom-tailored business solutions. For instance, you should incorporate your knowledge about individualism vs. collectivism and masculine vs. feminine culture when designing CTAs and USPs for a specific audience. Focusing on individual achievement and indulgence can work with one group, while another might need refocusing on harmony and well-being.
#3 Respect for cultural background
Making design culturally sensitive is a wise investment in building long-term relationships with committed customers. Though cultural artifacts are not that noticeable in the daily interactions of people and businesses, they still underlie everything, including people’s perceptions and worldviews.
To offer culturally meaningful designs, you should understand what different symbols mean for different people, what emotional associations different colors possess, and what values these people have. With this knowledge at your fingertips, you’re sure to offer real value to customers.
Cross-Cultural Design Will Aid Your Business
People are different, but they all like it when their differences are understood and respected. So, if you own an international business, designing your UX cross-culturally is a must. You’re sure to please your target audience and accumulate a loyal customer base over time.