“How to Design a Site for International Audiences” – Part 1

A few years back companies could design a site for local audiences and ignore the user base which was beyond their expected demographic of users. However with companies expanding beyond their local demographic and moving their base of operations into multiple regions, there is an increasing demand to ensure that the site design can cater to the requirements of those regions. Designing for multiple regions with different cultural connotation and adopting best website design practices can be a daunting experience. Some best practices in a particular country might be a very offensive practice in another country, therefore requiring us to be extra careful.

Examples to reiterate this point are:

  • A golf ball manufacturing company packaged golf balls in packs of four for convenient purchase in Japan. Unfortunately, the number 4 is equivalent to the number 13 because it sounds like the word “death”.
  • When the US firm Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, i.e. with a picture of a baby on the label. Sales flopped and they soon realized that in Africa, companies typically place pictures of contents on their labels.
  • EuroDisney made a major mistake when it created a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign using the color purple. For the Catholics of Western Europe, purple signifies the crucifixion, and it’s a color of mourning rather than a happy place as Disney sites are known to be. The end result was that EuroDisney flopped.

Due to multiple failures like this, companies are investing more time in understanding the cultural differences and best practices which should be followed while designing sites for international audiences.

Though it would be really difficult to ensure that all the cultural aspects are identified and analyzed before designing a site or application, there are some basic standards which must be followed before implementing a site:

 Work with Unicode

Irrespective of the language which the site is going to be developed in, care should be taken that the development is done in Unicode. Unicode is a computing industry standard, designed to promote and facilitate the consistent representation of text, irrespective of the script. Thus any written language i.e. English, Hindi, Arabic or Hebrew irrespective of whether it reads from left to right or right to left will be catered for as Unicode. The Unicode has a repository of over hundred thousand characters supporting over 100 scripts. The complete list of languages and scripts supported by Unicode can be seen at the Unicode Consortium CLDR’s chart pages.

ImageThe most common character encoding for Unicode is UTF-8, which is a variable-length encoding representing every character in the Unicode character set. And, unlike UTF-16 and UTF-32, it is backwards-compatible with ASCII, meaning UTF-8 is increasingly becoming the default encoding system for e-mail and websites.

Understand Cultural Symbols and Their Symbolic Meanings

While choosing graphics for a site, we must stay sensitive about its meaning according to the culture where the site is going to be launched. While certain symbols might be accepted almost everywhere around the world, seemingly innocent and daily symbols might be a cause for specific spite in some countries. For example, the “thumbs-up” gesture is used in many countries as an affirmation of success or approval. As a matter of fact, Facebook’s “Like” symbol based upon the thumbs up gesture which has general acceptance. However, in modern day Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Greece, Italy and France this simple gesture can be considered as very impolite. In fact, it is often considered as the equivalent of the “middle finger salute” used in the US and UK.

Another example is the Swastika: most of us will associate it with the Nazi movement. But for Hindus, it is the symbol of good luck and well-being. The swastika is used in all Hindu yantras and religious designs.

Similarly while the color green is considered very lucky in Ireland, a green hat is considered very offensive in China where it symbolizes infidelity.

Understand Color Symbolism in Different Cultures

One aspect of design that can have far reaching and sometimes unintentional effects on readers is color. Colors have different meanings in different cultures and therefore   designers must ensure that the color combinations used while designing a website do not affect local sensitivities.

Understanding color can be a tricky challenge and many color meanings can almost seem contradictory — particularly in the West, where color meanings are extremely broad.  Also certain colors are strongly associated via culture to emotions and beliefs and even historical facts (e.g. Yellow in China is considered as the color of the emperor and hence considered as royalty). Some interesting color representations and their cultural symbolisms are given below:

ImageReference: Colors in different cultures

McDonalds is an excellent example of a global organization which designs their local sites to reflect not only the local design standards but also the culture.  To show an example of their use of color to reflect their respect the local customs, take the example of the local sites for India and Kuwait.

In India, the color red is used as an example of purity and hence McDonald’s follows a color scheme which is very reddish in color as shown by this screenshot

ImageHowever in Eastern countries, Red is denoted as dangerous or evil and McDonald’s reduces the red tone in the color just keeping enough for the branding

ImageThe screenshot above is the screen shot of the English page of McDonalds of Kuwait

There is an excellent article Color and cultural design considerations which should be read to get a deeper understanding of how color is perceived in different countries

Second installment of the blog is coming soon!

Lead UX Program Manager

Mervin F Johnsingh

User journeys demystified with experience mapping


In a business world keenly focused on ease-of-experience for the end customer, no other industry is a greater hotbed for experience mapping than retail.

With innovation at its highest pace, here’s a case in point of a large global retailer who succeeded in bringing life-like shopping experience to subway stations.

The virtualstores blend a mobile-based shopping experience into people’s everyday lives with smart phone’s simple QR code scan, and the product automatically lands in their online shopping cart enabling delivery at home on the same day. Following this campaign, online sales increased dramatically (Nov 2010 to Jan 2011). Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Tesco (Homeplus) mall using smart phones. The number of new registered members rose by 76%, and online sales increased 130%. Currently, Homeplus has become No.1 in online market and is a very close 2nd offline.

Legendary examples like these that showcase the convergence of online and offline world have set new standards for the kind of independence and personalization that today’s users are getting comfortable with, thus raising the bar for cross-industry retail segment (banking, healthcare, automotive etc.).

Almost every other company is striving to create and manage a myriad of touch points that they want to add up to a differentiated customer experience. But, do customers actually care about all these massive efforts? Of course not, all they care is your ability to meet their needs across touch points and across competitive landscape making it easy and less effort intensive. And for any small/mid/large business it’s not an easy task to build these experiences. It requires deeper diagnosis of the user journey to contextualize.

Wondering how to accomplish this journey? Here are a few tips.

To begin with, let’s discover the value of experience mapping.

An experience map is the key to demonstrate the interconnectedness of a cross channel experience between customers and businesses with emotions like cognitive dissonance, power of free, rewards and discounts, feel good factors etc.

It will allow you to identify opportunities and areas of improvement that will, in turn, propel strategic design direction keeping abreast of state-of-art, cross-channel customer acquisition, retention & conversion trends.

An experience map will enable a 360 degree view of the end customer’s patterns of activity that are associated with your service / product. Building a satisfied pattern will ensure the customer’s emotional stickiness extending your reach to his social and personal world.

This will be different for each geography based on cultures and user behavioral patterns.

How do we build experience maps?

Here’s a seven step approach to uncover the customer journeys; these when improved will unlock a more compelling and valuable experience.


User Research:

The research and discovery process is an essential investment to ensure that the experience map captures the full customer step by step mind mapping. Piecing together the big picture of how and why your customers are interacting with different channels, touch points, products and services is where your journey begins.

This step will serve as the backbone to the entire experience mapping process, hence make sure to uncover the truth to tell the story right.

Customer Segmentation:

Once after the user research process is complete, as a conscious next step, consider profiling customers based on the similarities they share in terms of interactions and conversion patterns. This persona development coupled with heuristic evaluation & competitive assessment will help in getting a firmer understanding of both customer experience and the context around it.

PET (Persuasive, Emotion and Trust) – Analysis:

PET is a methodology for making user experience more engaging, compelling and effective. This adds a layer of psychology to gently nudge customers towards the desired action.

Attempt aggressively to understand the motivational and emotional triggers for each of the personas defined above. While usability facilitates actions such as browse, search, consume, comprehend, interact, etc., PET encourages users to engage, connect, convert and return.


User Group – Touch point mapping:

Bring the data you collected to life with user scenario mapping. Chart out the information architecture that emphasizes the most important dimensions of customer experience.

Remember this whole process is not a sole adventure, bring the critical stakeholders on board to engage in discussions that experience mapping fosters and build a consensus. Define metrics to identify the transformation in user satisfaction this whole experience mapping process has brought.


The moment a plan to map the customer journey evolves, the focus should primarily shift towards the identifying the key takeaways. This should essentially include strategic insights, recommendations and design principles. Every small observation on user behavior on different touch points will help redefine the whole paradigm of design.

Get started!

Experience mapping is not an easy task, it takes quite a bit of time and effort. When done well, you can gain a single customer view in a multi-channel world and identify the highs and lows people feel while interacting with your products or services.

For those of you sailing on your own mapping journey, let us know how it’s going in the comments below. Would love to learn all that it takes to delight customers!

Mohan Krishnaraj
Sr. Director – User Experience

Learn how to turn your customers into your biggest fans!

In a day and age where competing products and services are constantly looking at snatching your customers from right under your noses, providing them with an uplifting customer experience is one of the most critical drivers to retain them.

Join Justin Hamacher and Mohan Krishnaraj, Directors of UX at Aditi Litehouse, for a 60-minute webinar and learn how to create a seamless web experience for your brand. Customers have access to far more technology, over a multitude of devices, than ever before, and we want to help you reach and retain them.

During this webinar, you will learn to:

  • Use analytics and user research to define your “customer experience” strategy
  • Learn the importance of having a responsive and accessible website
  • Review live use cases to understand the advantages and expected results


Link Date & Time
For the USA webinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3282309746467144706 Wednesday February 26th 2014, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PST
For the UK webinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8007511544369528578 Thursday February 27th 2014, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM GMT

Abhilash Kumar
PR & Communications

What defines loyalty in the digital age?

Today consumers’ interaction with brands has transformed completely. Long-term customer loyalty is no longer guaranteed. To get deep-rooted perennial brand loyalty, it is suggested that brands should redefine their marketing strategies and propel a knock-on-impact unique program for customers.

In this digitally connected world, customers have easy access to abundant information through smart phones and on-the-move web. It’s a hard-bitten job to engage customers and solidify their loyalty over a long tenure.

Loyalty requires an emotional attachment to the brand. Brands should work on identifying the emotional hook of their customers. They must recognize their customers, create experience for them and innovate intriguing marketing plans to allure them. Learn what people think about what drives loyalty, and use those findings to discover new ways to engage with customers’ hearts and minds.

With innovative approaches and unique marketing tactics, it’s easy to improve customer loyalty and boost sales. One fundamental prerequisite for lasting customer loyalty is a regular customer contact. Individualized communication strengthens consumer engagement and helps to retain them. It is always believed that effective ‘relationship marketing’ help maintain a customer’s loyalty for a long spell.

Walt Disney said, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Creating trust and love between your brand and your customers can help scale positive word of mouth which is absolutely priceless. As the digital world has shorten the distance between consumers and retailers, it is high time to acquire happy customers and solidify your relationship in a meaningful way. A successful customer is a loyal customer who purchase repeatedly and does advocacy.

Today marketing has evolved from a transactional orientation to one that is based on relationships and community-building. By infusing more interests among consumers and creating differentiated experiences, brands can motivate customers to come back often and involve them in the brand advocacy.

Presently, consumers are empowered as never before in the age of Web 2.0, social media and mobile apps. Companies should start realizing the critical role of technology in this digital age and enabling the power of ‘social commerce’ to increase brand visibility and relevance to the digitally empowered consumers. Transparency, connection, and consistency help consumers deliver their brand promise. It is the personal brand connection which builds trust and loyalty among target audience.

What matters today is “Customer Experience”.



Lead – Technical Writer