When researching and designing web experiences, American designers often take a WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) view and don’t often challenge their own biases. This bleeds through into experiences, alienating users in unintended ways. In this resource, I am going to walk you through some aspects of creating websites for highly diverse, global, multi-cultural audiences.
Culturally relevant experiences start with culturally relevant research. The following checklist includes items to ponder as you are designing for global or multi-cultural audiences.
The Digital Divide
Not everyone has access to modern technologies, is connected to the internet, and owns a smartphone.
Cultures and regions may differ in how they use the internet for communication, research, social, shopping, and financial transactions.
Mindsets & Behaviors
Although targets across regions or cultures may share common characteristics, their mindset, self-perception, behavior, and social relationships may differ.
Arming yourself with information about your target audience does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are 5 recommendations to guide your research efforts.
Recruit Local Experts
Strategists, designers, and researchers that are a part of your target culture or region offer valuable insights that can’t be replicated with traditional research.
Practice Deep Immersion
Direct observation is the quickest way to gain information. If travel is not possible, consume culturally relevant media and visit places of interest.
Get Creative with Research
Traditional research doesn’t always work across cultures. Add creative methods such as cultural probes, possession personas, and the Walking Havana method.
Adjust Customer Personas
Create personas that represent modern, multi-cultural global audiences. Names, images, and information should reflect the diversity of the customers you serve.
Challenge Personal Bias
We all process information in real-time, creating instant, gut-level ideas about targets. Constantly challenge your assumptions. Encourage others to do so also.
Experience Design Considerations
Cross-cultural insights may translate into adjustments to content, branding, and design strategy. Here are 6 common experience design decisions that may need to be addressed.
Study how color psychology and preferences differ across target cultures or regions to avoid negative associations and promote positive connections.
Select fonts with all cultures and regions in mind. Designs may look different due to text expansion factors, visual density factors, and web font availability.
Icons & Symbols
Icons can be interpreted differently depending on a target’s cultural lens. Research to uncover issues and use globally accepted icons to avoid confusion.
Images & Illustrations
Target cultures prefer to see images that reflect their identity and cultural norms. Where possible, avoid western-focused stock photography.
To match mental models and avoid confusion, consider regional adjustments to images, copy, language, formatting, directionality, and information architecture.
Use the Internationalization checker to ensure that your website doesn’t contain cultural-specific attributes.