“How to Design a Site for International Audiences” – Part 3

We’ve reached part three of the series: “How to Design a Site for International Audiences”. This part will deal with the importance of professional translator, maintaining global branding, privacy laws and trivial details.

So Far We Have Looked At:

First part: Focuses on importance of Unicode, understanding the cultural symbols and their symbolic meanings and the symbolism of color. Click here to read the blog.

Second part: Deals with country specific design patterns and the use of flexible layouts to account for language compatibility. Click here to read the blog.

Use Professionally Translated Text for Local Content

While writing content for your localized sites, ensure that your content has been translated by a professional translator and vetted by a cultural authority for that culture to ensure that no careless or glaring mistakes have been made. While it might be tempting to use Google translate or a local employee to do a rough translation, lack of knowledge of translation nuances can lead to some embarrassing results as shown below:

Pepsi’s ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ slogan reportedly turned into ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ when translated into Chinese.

Germany was not entirely receptive of Irish Mist whiskey liqueur, Clairol’s mist stick curling iron or the Rolls Royce Silver Mist model. This isn’t surprising when you consider that ‘mist’ is German for ‘manure’.

Also be aware that slang is also avoided as much and what might be considered as acceptable words in a specific language might be considered as very offensive slang in another language.

Also note that names might be called differently or might be spelt differently depending on the language. For example Munich (the capital of Germany) is spelt as “München” In German.

Also note that not only selectable text should be translated but also text which is embedded in images to ensure there is a cohesive user experience and uniformity across the site.

Lastly, note that literal translations should also be done carefully while choosing website names as shown by the example of Holland’s hit festival which whose domain name becomes http://www.hollandshitfestival.nl/

Check out this article Ten Tips for Localization and Translation for additional inputs on best practices while doing translations.

Maintain Global Branding

Though care should be taken that the site is localized to reflect local customs and considerations such as color and local symbols are taken into the consideration while doing the site design, the site still maintains its brand identity to increase trust and acceptance across customers.

Be Aware of Privacy Laws

While designing a localized site, be mindful of the privacy laws of that country. For example, Europe has very strict data collection laws as opposed to USA and we must ensure that there is no violation of that as that can have serious consequences as shown as below:

The absolute worst case scenario is that the EU denies US firms the right to do business in Europe where there is any possible human data transfer back to the US. Some examples include:

  • Bar all e-commerce unless data about Europeans is processed in European and follows the new rules.
  • Airline and Hotel firms could not transfer any data about European customer’s preferences such as eating and seating.
  • Medical research data could not combine European and American data sets.
  • Firms that need data about individuals such as accountant, insurers and investment bankers would be severely curtailed.

There are numerous examples of companies who have made efforts to ensure these laws are met. For example, Citibank in collaboration with the German National Railway made an agreement to collectively launch the largest German credit card offering. In order to get approval the two firms had to negotiate for six months to institute numerous privacy protections to satisfy the new privacy directive. Another example is that Anitha Bondestam, the Swedish privacy watchdog instructed American Airlines to delete all health and medical details on Swedish passengers after each flight unless ‘explicit consent’ was given.

Be Mindful of Small Details

A successfully localized website is one that appears to have been developed locally, even when it wasn’t. Since localization mistakes and oversights can be awkward for website users and potentially embarrassing for the company, ensure you get it right. The last thing any company wants is to turn away potential customers from its website before those visitors ever have a chance to experience the product or service. Generally speaking, website localization means giving some extra attention to things like:

  • Dates: Be mindful of date formats used (DD/MM/YYYY vs. MM/DD/YYYY)
  • Time: 12-hour vs. 24-hour time.
  • Currency: Pay attention to conversions and formats.
  • Phone Numbers: Formats are different around the world.
  • National Holidays: Holidays are country and region specific.
  • Metric Units : Be mindful of the metric units being used in that country
  • Website Language Codes: ISO codes are important to know.

Also be mindful of details such as how consumers in your target country access your site. An excellent example is how Facebook customizes its tagline depending upon its target country. The English page says, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” The Japanese page says, “Using Facebook, you can connect with friends, colleagues and classmates to deepen your connections. Also access Facebook from cell phones and smartphones.”

The thing to notice is that the Japanese page mentions users can access the site with phones, but the English page doesn’t. This is perhaps because this study 95% of the Japanese population is mobile subscribers. To quote the study:

Japan has 125 million mobile subscribers (95 percent of the population), of these 103 million (84 percent of mobile users) are mobile Internet subscribers.

Conclusion

In closing, there is significant research done on the best practices to follow while doing localization on a site. Ensure that you pursue all the research that is available before jumping into a localization problem and follow the best practices recommended to ensure there is little or no embarrassment when the site launches thus driving your site towards greater globalization.

Disseminating UX Research Data and Information: Bridging the Research to Design Gap

One of the major quandaries for a UX researcher is determining the most effective way of disseminating UX research results to a project team. This is particularly true for UX researchers who focus on qualitative research, where identifying contextual issues requires broad and varied descriptive tools.  This process of ensuring research findings are heard and understood, can also be time consuming; as translating a text-based analysis to visual formats is complex, and often outside the skillset of researchers who have trained in the social sciences, not design or data visualization.

However, the technology industry is known for its fast pace, and learning to identify appropriate ways of disseminating information to a project team and stakeholders is a must for UX researchers. Moreover, isn’t relationship building and communication strategies what UX research is all about? It should be impossible for us to ignore the contextual issues and character traits that prevent people from reading, or being interested in, full written reports. It is simply part of our job.

So, how does a project team achieve a common understanding of users and their context? Below, I have listed a few general examples of methods used at Aditi for disseminating such information.

  • Frequent or strategic presentations – Making sure to present analysis and findings as the project moves along. This keeps everyone on the same page, starts to ingrain some key ideas, starts conversations, builds trust with the client, and does not overwhelm.
  • Co-workingPlacing project teams in the same space, so after overarching findings have been presented, the UX researcher is consistently present to answer questions and engage in conversations. This allows for even minor design decisions to be backed by research findings.
  • Data Visualizations and Information GraphicsQuantifying qualitative data or visualizing qualitative information in a way that is easily and quickly consumed. These can be posted on walls in the workplace or included in final presentations or reports.
  • Final Report and PresentationWhile this is standard, it is important to remember that an engaging final report and presentation that shows the full picture of the problem space and how a project can best serve its user populations is an important piece of UX research.  

While many can see the value of above activities anecdotally, UX research would do well to add further formalized activities or guidelines for choosing activities to their UX research toolkit. This would help to ensure creative understanding had been reached, and begin to build a dialogue surrounding which activities work best for certain projects, industries, teams, and companies.

For one example of research working to set guidelines for research to design activities, see this article.

Kristina Krause

UX Researcher

Aditi Litehouse

“How to Design a Site for International Audiences” – Part 2

This is the second part of the series: “How to Design a Site for International Audiences”, which will deal with country specific design patterns and design flexible layouts to account for language compatibility.

While in Part 1, we mentioned the significance and impact of color in designing for international audiences, Color is not the only attribute which is country specific. Countries also have design specific constraints which must be evaluated.

Understand Country Specific Design Patterns

There has been an increasing trend in moving towards a cleaner and minimalistic looker with lesser emphasis on chrome and more on content with explicit use of typography. These UI design patterns might not be applicable everywhere as the design layout depends from country to country.  For example, while there is an increasing trend towards minimalistic design patters in US, there seems to be no such movement in most Asian countries where design layouts still has very high information densities.   Taking the example of McDonald’s China, there is an emphasis on communicating a large amount of content to users at a single instant with multiple points of focus. Part of the reason is because users in China are more accustomed to analyzing more information at a single glance and it’s easier to read a lot of content in Chinese.

ImageScreenshot of the McDonald’s China site

However if you have a look at the McDonald’s USA site, the content focus is more on communicating a single point of focus with subsets of information with explicit use of large typography and distinctive call to action buttons as shown below.

Image

Screenshot of the McDonald’s USA site

Another aspect to consider while designing localized sites is the language structure. Though most languages read from left to right, there are a number of languages which read from right to left(RTL) and hence must be accounted for in terms of design. It should be noted that while dealing with languages which read from right to left, just doing a text translation will not be sufficient and aspects such as placement of design elements and controls must be taken into consideration. For example, the Facebook landing page in Arabic (which is a right to left language) is not just a textual translation of the English version but the corresponding content and control placements are also flipped to read from right to left as shown below:

Image

However care should be taken before completely embarking on a design orientation based upon the language being used as countries can have multiple languages and designers need to ensure that the language of their target audience is catered for. To quote from the W3C internationalization page

The script may also change by legislation or with changes in government policy. For example, to reach the Azeri-speaking population in Iran, you would use Arabic script. From the late 1930s, Cyrillic was the script of choice in Azerbaijan itself and became policy in 1940. Due to the fall of the Soviet Union; beginning in 1991 a gradual switch to Latin occured, becoming mandatory for official uses in 2001. However, for your target audience and unofficial uses, you might want to use Cyrillic for older audiences and Latin for younger audiences, and most likely both to reach the general Azerbaijani population. If you want to reach all Azeri speakers, you would use all 3 scripts. (Note that there might be terminology and other differences among Azeri speakers in different countries, just as there are differences between English or French speakers in different countries.)

You also should be aware that your choice of script may have political, religious, demographic or cultural overtones. In countries where the language of higher learning was Russian, Cyrillic will be used by educated people. Latin is associated with Pan-Turkic movements, and more generally can indicate Western-tending movements. Arabic script has associations with Islamist movements.

Design Flexible Layouts to Account for Language Compatibility

While designing a localized site, care should be taken to ensure that the form and content elements on the page can account for the differences in language length. For example, German tends to use much longer words than English, whilst many Asian languages require much less space for text than English. This means that if you’re ever translating your website into other languages, it’s best that your content and design are kept as separate entities.

The graphic below gives an example of how a single word can have varying lengths in different languages

Image

Hence care should be taken that that fixed width structures are avoided and content containers are flexible enough to handle size changes due to the shift from one language to another.

To read the first part, which focuses on importance of Unicode and understand the cultural symbols and their symbolic meanings and the significance of color, click here.

Third part will follow soon.

 

Lead UX Program Manager

Mervin F Johnsingh