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Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Mobile User Experience

Keval Padia  //  August 16, 2016  //  4 min read

Global connectivity has sparked the necessity of designing global web experiences to suit the cultural milieu. Similarly, mobile UX designers have to design experiences based on overall use and accessibility, and also to build a strong cross-cultural user experience based on the brand.

However, this shift also brings us to a culture conundrum: How do you design a localized mobile user experience when there are hundreds of different characteristics of different cultures in every part of the world? Today’s post begins to tackle this question, along with sharing some tips for overcoming cultural barriers through your mobile UX design.

Role of personas

If you’re a UX designer, culture affects your job considerably, and it is more relevant while creating localized UX for different customer segments. Each culture has different interpretations of diverse design elements and absorbs content in different ways, depending on their varied cultural perspectives.

Knowing your audience is one thing, but assessing their culture to help create the perfect user experience is quite a different ball game. A UX persona is helpful in this context when you consider a culture for which an app is being created.

Personas can help you utilize imagery, language, different color hues, and diverse audience perspectives. It’s also important to consider multiple cultural factors before designing an interface. Personas also help designers create a reliable and realistic representation of a large part of their audience, especially potential visitors with real-world elements.

When you’re crafting a persona, consider including:

  • A name for the persona
  • A description of attributes and responsibilities of the persona
  • Visual information for establishing relation with the persona

Role of culture

Every country has different metaphors for actions, and each of the regions has a distinct identity owing to their own cultural affinities. Here are some important elements to consideration:

  • Language: Some concepts and ideas may work well for one country and language, but for some others, the ideas may get lost in translation. Be sure to explore all sides as you put your experience together.
  • Metaphors: The iconography of different countries, along with language differences, may lead to metaphors getting lost in translation. Be careful when a metaphor is the primary point on which a piece of your experience is built.
  • Color: Colors hold different meanings across cultures. For example, red might indicate passion in one culture, but at the same time, might suggest caution to another. Color choices are critical when designing a localized mobile experience.

A culture is made up of many different pieces. Everything from religion to celebrity behavior can help make up a culture, and it’s important to understand as many aspects as possible when attempting to overcome a cultural barrier through mobile UX. Another piece you can use for your personas can be mapping out different cultural categories, including values, rituals, society norms, and consequences.

Role of cultural context

Localized mobile usability is influenced by the cultural elements of the locality and utilizes cross-cultural UX to the optimum.

In this instance, it’s effective to show how other companies with localized apps are approaching cultural differences. For example, check out Uber’s app shown in both the US and the UK:

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 4.38.33 PM

Additionally, the McDonald’s app is designed differently for different locations. Check out the Chinese version of the app vs. the German version of the app below.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 4.38.41 PM

What is different in the UX of these localized apps? Mention your inputs in the comments section below so we can get a discussion going.

Role of visual design

By using visual cues properly, mobile designers can help create connections between the brand and the audience, regardless of location. Here are a few elements that need to be considered before putting a localized mobile design into effect:

  • Color: Different colors can have strong connotations with different cultures, and understanding differences is key.
  • Symbols: Get the symbols and gestures in the right cultural context when designing an app.
  • Dress and style: Clothing and attire on the design be familiar to the styles of the audience and their culture.
  • Environment: The environment type and climatic conditions should be considered while setting the design’s mood.
  • Language: Some words and phrases do not translate well to audience segments, especially those speaking other languages. Linguistic context is important.
  • Typefaces: Typography should set the tone that is aligned with the brand of the app, but that also conveys the right feeling, depending on the region’s preference.
  • Character representation: The persona should be based on illustrations or words so that they hint at the large part of the intended audience.

Conclusion

Various cultural dimensions influence customer perceptions and decision-making. By gaining insight into the target culture’s values, one can understand the cultural context of certain design elements and use them to their advantage. These dimensions are not constant, though, since with the changes in the milieu and culture, the choices may change. Be sure to run cultural barrier exercises regularly to ensure your message isn’t getting lost in translation.

Good luck in localizing your app, and please let your thoughts and other tips in the comments below.

About Keval Padia

Keval Padia is a Founder & CEO of Nimblechapps, a fast-growing iOS game development company. The current innovation and updates of the field lead him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.
View all posts by Keval Padia >

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