Localization and Language
One of the first tasks in cross-cultural design is translating the copy of an application or website. While some web browsers have built-in translation capabilities, you should localize your app or website to cater to your worldwide consumers in order to guarantee that your content is appropriately translated and retains the many nuances of a language. Localization involves adjusting the copy and content of a website to accommodate cultural norms and preferences.
We assume typefaces are universal, but they don’t always capture the delicate details that are apparent in certain languages — especially in non-Latin writing systems like Korean and Arabic. To ensure the typography aligns with both the brand and culture, do some research to make informed decisions on multi-script type systems. You should also think about the direction people read in other cultures. Some read left-to-right, and others read right-to-left. You can accommodate these nuances by changing the alignment of the corresponding UI and images. For example, in a localized site where the text reads from right-to-left, a carousel should also move from right-to-left. Another caveat: A short phrase or sentence in one language may have a longer translation in another, so create a cross-cultural design that is fluid and account for text expansion.
The cultural significance of specific hues varies. For example, in many East Asian cultures, the color red is considered lucky. It represents happiness, wealth, and festivities. Yet, crimson is connected to grief and death in some parts of Africa. In many regions of the continent, the Red Cross altered its colors to green and white since it is so prohibited. When selecting colors for websites, applications, and brands, consider the subtle cultural connotations associated with each hue.
Content and Content Density
Sleek, low-content app and website designs are preferred from a Western perspective. Short sentences, evenly spaced graphics, and distinct page sections are all present. On the other hand, Japanese culture favors visually and informationally focused website designs that pack as much content as possible onto a single page. Finding ways to combine elements of different cultures is smart practice, even when there isn’t a perfect ratio for content density.
Photos and Images
Your audience should be accurately represented by the pictures and graphics you utilize. Using a Vietnamese person’s photo on an Egyptian website and vice versa would be absurd. Remember to take into account the photographic practices of each culture. Americans are known for their wide smiles and attention to detail. Facial expressions are rarely the center of attention and are usually minor in East Asia. Divergent views exist with relation to gender, attire, and religion as well. While a picture of individuals at the beach in their swimsuits is common in the West, it might not be proper in some Middle Eastern nations.
Devices and Technologies
Consider digital gadgets as “cultural products” that represent the communication styles of various socioeconomic or ethnic groups. Always use a responsive cross-cultural design for websites and applications so they can fit different screen sizes. Larger gadgets like tablets are typically preferred by older groups. Because they are lighter and have bigger screens, it is simpler to read and see text and images on them.
Without a diverse design staff, it is impossible to provide a diversified user experience. Diverse perspectives are what constitute true diversity within a team. Bringing in different viewpoints results in bringing in different strategies and answers. To develop inclusive, diverse experiences, different skill sets, backgrounds, and lived experiences are required.
Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation
The question of whether or not one is acting in good taste and good faith constantly arises when designing with consideration for other cultures. There’s rarely a clear-cut solution because there are so many subtleties involved. However, the more information we have, the more prepared we will be to make that decision.
Cultural appreciation, or actively learning about another culture to better understand, serve, and connect with others, is a technique that is closely related to cross-cultural design. Cultural appropriation, on the other hand, refers to the improper and frequently unrecognized adoption of traditions or aesthetics by a dominant social group from a minority one.
When it comes to cultural appropriation, there are three things to take into account: power, benefit, and harm. Entire cultural and social groups are intentionally harmed when unfavorable stereotypes are promoted or the historical value of a thing, practice, or tradition is questioned. We also need to consider who benefits financially from the initiative or is commended for it. However, the fundamental distinction between cultural appreciation and appropriation is power: who retains power and the ways in which that power may impact various groups.
Here are some questions you may ask yourself along the road to make sure you’re considerate and aware of different actions, mindsets, and customs:
- Does this harm any particular person, nation, community, or custom?
- Who gains from using or selling this good or service, either monetarily or personally?
- Do I realize the effect that assimilating into a culture or tradition will have on me?
- Was this thing or concept acquired by the group it originates from in a morally, legally, and voluntarily manner?
- Do I respect the culture or am I abusing it?