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Oksana PletenOksana PletenUI/UX Designer

Cultural Factors in Design: A Product for Everyone

Develop a sense of empathy with the user – even the smallest localization mistake may disrupt the interaction of a native speaker with your product.

Design localization

If you want your software product to be used by clients from different countries and cultures, you need to transform and adapt, or in other words, to localize it.

The interface localization increases the popularity of mobile app and makes it stand out among similar products. Even such a simple thing as the translation of product description and keywords on the page in an online store has a positive effect on the number of downloads and sales rates for this product.

For instance, the residents of some countries prefer to purchase products using their native language even if they know English quite well. Most people also prefer to use customer service in their native language. If we take Europe, which includes around 50 countries, almost every single one of them has its regional peculiarity to display data, numbers, or currency. If we target the world audience, we need to think about such countries as China, Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, where the text is written from right to left or from the top to the bottom. The numbers may also be written with the use of Hindu-Arabic or Persian numbers.

Therefore, we recommend making yourself aware of features which should be taken into account in the first place.

Language Features

Date and Time Format

Date and time format

The way you present time and date depends on the country. For instance, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand use the 12-hour clock (the English system), while another part of the world uses the 24-hour clock (the French system).

Format of Numbers, Currency, and Units of Measurement

Currencies table

Decimal and thousands separator may look like a comma, period, or space. Also, the position of currency may differ not only in different languages but also in different countries. For instance, such countries as Germany and Austria use the same language but have different currency format. You can find more detailed information here.

The units of measurement also must be adapted to the national standards. If they are used in your project, you should always find out which system is accepted in a certain country so that to inform the user about the speed, length, weight, temperature etc.

Font

Make sure that the fonts you use have characters for language localization, especially for Asian languages, Hebrew, or Arabic, as well as special characters (diacritics) of European languages.

Input Forms

The text translated into foreign languages will be either shorter or longer than the original text. In some cases, the difference might be dramatic.

Also, mind that the length and format of names are different in different language! Do not limit the number of symbols in the fields for entering a name and a surname since some nationalities might have several names which can include four and more words. ALso, some names can be just long.

An interesting fact: the longest name in the world is Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff. His full name is Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff­welche­vor­altern­waren­gewissen­haft­schafers­wessen­schafe­waren­wohl­gepflege­und­sorg­faltig­keit­be­schutzen­vor­an­greifen­durch­ihr­raub­gierig­feinde­welche­vor­altern­zwolf­hundert­tausend­jah­res­voran­die­er­scheinen­von­der­erste­erde­mensch­der­raum­schiff­genacht­mit­tung­stein­und­sieben­iridium­elek­trisch­motors­ge­brauch­licht­als­sein­ur­sprung­von­kraft­ge­start­sein­lange­fahrt­hin­zwischen­stern­artig­raum­auf­der­suchen­nach­bar­schaft­der­stern­welche­ge­habt­be­wohn­bar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wo­hin­der­neue­rasse­von­ver­stand­ig­mensch­lich­keit­konnte­fort­pflanzen­und­sicher­freuen­an­lebens­lang­lich­freude­und­ru­he­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­an­greifen­vor­anderer­intelligent­ge­schopfs­von­hin­zwischen­stern­art­ig­raum Sr.

Of course, this is an exception of the rule, and you might not want to go that far, but the claim is clear – you should not limit input forms with 10 characters.

Content Features

The user immediately perceives visual information, so the main task of localization is to avoid ambiguity.

Since the color is an important source of information, you need to learn to apply it and make it beneficial for your content. Explore and align with your target audience.

Let us take a stock market as an example. In the USA, UK, and Japan, the positive indicator of a profitable offgoing middle diagram is green or blue whereas the negative is red. However, in Taiwan and Korea, the use of colors is the opposite. In these two countries, red symbolizes prosperity and success. Meanwhile, in Japan, the red checkmark means that you as a user did something wrong.

Color palette example

Methods of Localization

There are two possible directions if you find it important and ready to improve. You can create your own approach or use ready-made standards and libraries like ECMAScript Internationalization API, i18next etc.

In fact, even if you are limited with one culture, the situation might turn out to be even more complex than you would expect. The process of localization is not restricted in choosing any system or focusing on various features of languages ​​and cultures. Initially, the process of product development should be focused on the users, their needs, desires, and expectations.


Unfortunately, one universal solution does not exist. Yet, if all the features are taken into account, your product will get on a new level of user experience.

If your audience is quite large, you can involve users for translations. Facebook and WhatsApp are translated in such a way, and Google Translator uses the same approach.

It is essential to develop a sense of empathy with the user since even the smallest mistake may disrupt the interaction of native speakers with your product.

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