Design for a global audience

Discussion articles

  • Are you cultured? Global web design and the dimensions of culture
    When a company decides to globalise its site, the web team often learns the taboo colors and appropriate dress codes of a given culture, translates the text, and launches. But cultural differences run deeper than visual appearance or language; they reflect strong values. Rarely do globalised sites incorporate the nuances of a culture's social hierarchy, individualism, gender roles, time-orientation, or truth-seeking attributes.

  • Conducting international usability
    As business on the web matures, organisations increasingly pay attention to the first two Ws in WWW--World Wide. Companies with international sales offices crave a distinct web presence in each locale to demonstrate seriousness in that local market. Multi-national companies often use intranets to unify global teams. Maintaining global consistency requires centralising these web efforts (usually within corporate headquarters), yet this must accommodate distinct approaches to working which vary from region to region. User testing is a valuable tool in such situations, but how does one conduct user tests internationally?

  • Culture and websites: not believing in Aaron Marcus's dimensions of culture and global web design
    Internationalization has become a very popular topic around web design. Designers are becoming more aware of the global scale of websites and are taking into account different language character sets, date formats and currencies. The more subtle effects of culture, however, are less evident.

  • From plain English to global English
    About one billion people use English as a second language. You can avoid most pitfalls of cross-cultural communication by using global English.

  • G/localization: when global information and local interaction collide
    "Glocalization is the ugliness that ensues when the global and local are shoved uncomfortably into the same concept. It doesn't sit well on your palette, it doesn't have a nice euphoric ring. It implies all sorts of linguistic and cognitive discomfort. This is the state of the global and local in digital communities. We have all sorts of local cultures connected through a global network, resulting in all sorts of ugly tensions. Designers who work with networks must face these tensions and design to take advantage of the global while not destroying the local. This is a hefty challenge and one that I want us to dive into."
    (Danah Boyd)

  • Going global gracefully: strategies for building the global gateway
    The world speaks many languages, and so do an increasing number of websites. Yet with these languages and locales come a host of challenges for the web teams who manage them, challenges that are not likely to go away.

  • International differences: language
    "When designing interfaces for international products, a number of localization considerations can emerge. Differences in language, in particular, can introduce substantial layout and information architecture variability."
    (Luke Wroblewski)

  • International information architecture
    Connecting people from diverse disciplines, countries and cultures is a strategic imperative for the information architecture community as a whole. Our competitive advantage derives from our very ability to build bridges and span networks.

  • International sites - minimum requirements
    "Users from other countries have special needs related to entry fields for names and addresses, measurements and dates, and information about regional product standards."
    (Jakob Nielsen)

  • International usability testing
    International user-interface concerns come at three levels. A computer must be capable of displaying the user's native language, character set, and notations (such as currency symbols). The user interface and documentation must be translated into the user's native language in a way that is understandable and usable. A system must match the user's cultural characteristics. This goes beyond simply avoiding offensive icons; it must accommodate the way business is conducted and the way people communicate in various countries.

  • International web usability
    They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing. A single click can take you to a site on another continent and a business can attract customers from hundreds of countries without ever going to a Frankfurt trade show where they book you into a hotel two hours down the autobahn. The unprecedented international exposure afforded by the web increases the designer's responsibility for ensuring international usability.

  • It's a small world after all: Western usability guidelines predict behavior of Chinese users of on-line bookstores
    "The present study examined whether Western usability guidelines apply to Chinese web sites. Nielsen et al (2000) proposed a set of 207 usability guidelines derived from observations in the field. We took a subset of 48 rules, and looked at the compliance rate (number of guidelines a web site complied with, divided by the total number of guidelines), task completion time, task accuracy, and users’ perceived usability and likeability for four Chinese online bookstores. Results showed a clear relationship between adherence to the rules and usability of the site: as the web site’s compliance rate increased, so did the usability and the impression the web site received from its users. These results suggest that the rules governing behavior of Chinese users are similar to those of Western users. More generally, this study calls into question the widely-held intuition that usability for Asian web sites should be different than usability for Western sites."
    (Josephine K Y Yau, William G Hayward - UI Garden)

  • Metaphors and website design: A cross-cultural case study of the Tide.com stain detective
    "This study investigated the generalization of a home metaphor used in the Tide.com Stain Detective (Nelson & Hibner, 2003) to middle-class Indian females. The stain detective was developed with American women based on a card sorting activity. A similar card sorting activity was conducted with six Indian females. Results showed that the Indian participants grouped the stains by the amount of work that was required to remove it, rather than by the location where it occurred."
    (A. Dawn Shaikh, Barbara S. Chaparro, W. Todd Nelson, Anirudha Joshi )

  • Perspectives on e-globalisation
    Web globalisation is much more than the translation of an organisation's website from one language to another. It is about adapting a company's product and message to meet the varied expectations of markets around the world. Razorfish has identified four best practices to ensure a successful globalisation process.

  • The cultural importance of usability testing
    "When conducting usability testing in different countries there are definitely differences in the way people think. Differences don't always come out, but they can certainly be there."
    (Frank Gaine)

  • The dangers of publishing your website in another language
    Publishing your website in another language is like managing a brand new website. It demands people who are expert in writing and editing in that language. The standard of English on the Web, for example, is often poor, even for those whose native language it is. It can be embarrassingly bad for websites publishing English as a foreign language.

  • Think beyond - think global
    If you're prepared to think beyond, to a global marketplace for your site, you can reap many rewards. However, if you don’t do your homework, you are most likely going to fail in your efforts.

  • Translating taxonomies and categories
    What happens when you run a site in multiple languages/locales and need to manage the information architecture of that site? Can you just translate a taxonomy from one language to another?
    (Peter van Dijck)

  • Web globalisation on a local budget
    When we think of user-centered design we have yet another user to consider in our designs--the rest of the world.We have all seen large web sites that have not only created sites in other languages (internationalisation), but also customised their content to the particular region they are targeting (localisation). Essentially they have created multiple versions of their site, which requires huge financial resources and some serious content management. But what about the rest of us who don’t have the financial resources or time to maintain multiple versions of our sites?

  • Welcome to the global village: some considerations for doing usability in global markets
    Recent history and the Internet have opened up some unprecedented global marketing possibilities. The ability to reach a global market on the web has highlighted some interesting challenges for user-centered design as well