Typography & Formatting

Typography can also vary across cultures, so it’s important to choose fonts that are legible and appropriate for the target audience. For example, some cultures may prefer more ornate or decorative fonts, while others may prefer more simple and straightforward typography. Also consider designs may look different due to text expansion factors, visual density factors, and web font availability. Select typography with all cultures and regions in mind. Consider how typography and formatting may need to be adjusted for each situation.


Fonts can sometimes perpetuate inaccurate and troublesome stereotypes. For instance, using tribal looking fonts for African-African American focused marketing or fonts like Madarin Regular to represent the Asian culture can alienate the very people that you want to attract.


Google Fonts are a great way to add style without compromising website speed, SEO and accessibility, but they have a downside. They are blocked in mainland China. Understand what content blocks exist in the countries that you are designing for and have a fallback font. You may also consider using special region-specific webfonts.

Multiple script systems

Different types of scripts have different shapes, weights, and contrast implications. Spend time upfront considering multiple script types in your designs. Minor tweaks to attributes like line height, font-size, and letter spacing can often avoid visual weirdness down the line.

Visual density

CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) alphabets have more complex characters and shapes than Latin (English, French, Italian, etc.) letter forms. Because of this, they have a higher visual density. You may need to do some extra work to make sure that the fonts are slightly larger and the line heights have more space or breathing room.

Text expansion factors

Text expansion or language swell can and will happen. Some languages require more characters and longer text strings than others. Account for this extra text in designs. Pay special attention to microcopy, calls to action, and menus, which are more prone to failure in the face of expanded text. To estimate swell in different languages, use an expansion-factor table, like the one provided by Salesforce. [1]


For each region or language, ask if the following needs to be adjusted:

  • Names – Name order, Name Letters and Length

  • Locales – Postal codes, Formatting addresses, State / region/ provinces

  • Dates – Swap days and months

  • Currency – Inauspicious numbers, Currency presentation, Multi-currency / Exchange rates, Tax / Value-Added Tax (VAT)


Consider how text directionality might require you to make adjustments to your design. When a user’s reading from left to right (LTR) rather than right to left (RTL), you may want to adjust the placement of images and scannable elements.


See the full Cross-Cultural UX Design resource.

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