Cultural Factors in Design: A Product for Everyone
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 want your service to be used by clients from different countries and cultures, you need to transform and adapt, or in other words, 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 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. The majority also prefers 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 and the numbers are 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.
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
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.
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 a certain country so that to inform the user about the speed, length, weight, temperature etc.
Make sure that the fonts you use have characters for language localization (mainly Asian languages, as well as Hebrew or Arabic, and special characters (diacritics) of European languages.
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.
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, while 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 a way, and Google translate uses the same approach.
It is essential to develop a sense of empathy for the user since even the smallest mistake may disrupt the interaction of native speakers with your product.