Cross-Cultural Design

Laura Lee
Apr 16, 2023

Global firms usually have regionally dispersed teams that designers work with. We frequently work on digital goods for customers throughout the world that are intended for worldwide consumption. However, designers live in their own bubbles and frequently just pay attention to their own local culture, customs, and language since they are unaware of the larger globe.

Undoubtedly, cross-cultural design involves difficult language and cultural obstacles. But most designers mistakenly believe that localizing (or translating) a language, changing the currency, and updating a few pictures to reflect the local culture is all it takes to design products for many cultures. The path to a good cross-cultural design with excellent UX is far more difficult and fraught with dangers.

Conceptual 3s illu8stration. User experience of web and smartphone application. Web screen, smartphone on colorful pastel background.

Getty Images / Moment / Alem Omerovic

Amazon encountered a significant issue when it started in India in late 2018 due to a lack of cultural understanding and thorough UX research. Why Indian clients weren’t using one of their main sources of income—looking for things to purchase on the mobile site’s home page—was a mystery to them. It turns out that the magnifying glass image was not well recognized in India as a symbol of search. They could not understand it at all. Most users believed the symbol depicted a ping-pong paddle when the UI was evaluated! Amazon came up with a solution by keeping the magnifying glass but adding a search area with a Hindi text label to make it clear this is where users may start a search.

Designers must take into account cultural variations in color psychology and mental models in addition to varying languages, dialects, and aspects of country cultures while creating cross-cultural goods. Text may be written in a variety of ways, including top-to-bottom, right-to-left (RTL), and left-to-right (LTR), which adds another level of intricacy. When creating designs for both LTR and RTL languages, certain languages require “mirroring designs,” which designers must take into account. Everything from text to pictures, navigational patterns, and CTAs should be taken into account (calls-to-action).