Cultural factors in design or how to make your product accessible to everyone?

Oksana Pleten
2018 March 219:55 AM

Heroes

Can you imagine that you have finally received a product which is suitable, accessible, convenient and created in a way that all the features have been taken into account?

If you have decided to create such kind of service and want it to be used by clients from different countries and cultures, then you need to transform and adapt. To put it in another words, you need to localize it.

It is known that interface localization increases the popularity of mobile app 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 figures of this product.

For instance, the residents of some countries prefer to purchase products using their native language even if they know English quite well. The majority also prefers to use customer service in their native language. If we take Europe which includes around 50 countries, almost every has its regional peculiarity to display data, number or currency. If we extend our audience around the world, then 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 and the numbers are written with the use of Hindu-Arabic or Persian numbers.

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

Language features

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 12-hour clock (English system), while another part of the world uses 24-hour clock (French system).

Format of numbers, currency and units of measurement

Decimal and thousands separator may look like a comma, period or a space. Also the position of currency may distinguish not only in different languages but also in different countries. For instance, such countries as Germany and Austria use the same language however they have different currency format. You can find more detailed information on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_and_the_euro

It is sometimes necessary to adapt to the national standards and by that I mean the units of measurement. If they are used in your project, you should always find out which system is accepted in one or another 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 (mainly Asian languages, as well as Hebrew, Arabic and 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. 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 words.

Content features

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

Since the colour 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 colours is opposite. In these two countries red symbolizes prosperity and success. But the red checkmark in Japanese interface means you did something wrong.

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. 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, but 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 way and Google translate uses the same approach.

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

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