Designing For Global Audiences: Considerations on UX and Localisation

Localisation is the process of adapting a product or service to meet the language, cultural, regulatory, and technical requirements of the people in a specific region.

User experience is the interaction between real human users and everyday products and services, such as websites and apps.

A localisation example. Airbnb landing pages: from Brazil (left) Ireland (right). The content and layout are different because it's adapted for the local culture and this has a major impact on the user experience.

Both subjects are aimed at human interaction. Localisation itself is correlated to language and context and it has adapted elements of layout and design to the given culture.

When users are local and are likely to have the same cultural background and language as your product, it makes sense to design for that audience’s specific needs. When it comes to creating a global brand, the primary objective is to create a lasting impression on the consumers of any country or region. If your UX and localisation are correct, your brand will reflect a universal theme that is consistent across all of your products. In a way, it’s easier to create universal UX as a global brand adopting an agile approach and creating a style guide that provides consistency when localising from the source language to another target language.

Some aspects to consider when localising to another culture:

  • Context. Some colours might signify a different meaning, also some imagery can be interpreted as offensive, for example, the usage of flags. Avoid using flags when designing a multilingual website, the preferred method is to use the name of the language in the language itself (and watch out for diacriticals, language-specific capitalization, etc).
  • Having the same language doesn’t mean the same cultural context. Example: Brazilian Portuguese (Brazil) to European Portuguese (Portugal).
  • Different alphabets might be different language direction (left-to-right, right-to-left) and the F pattern that many western countries adopt might not be ideal.

If content or design doesn’t meet the local requirements it may fail to be understood by the global audience because it will be non-compliant with their local cultural norms. Different languages will require a different amount of screen space to display the same information. This will alter the user input.

Localization is a crucial part of UX design. UX designers can design experiences to meet the local requirements in a way that is in line with global requirements. It requires keeping both in mind, like the designer providing annotated wireframes and prototypes to the translator and also a style guide explaining the product names, tone and audience.

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Luana C

Luana C

Product Designer, entrepreneur & polymath.