Nasdaq Design
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Nasdaq Design

Cultural Blind Spots in UX

Designing for international markets requires more than translating words.

Example of data density for an Asian market
Eye scan habits of different cultures

With that in mind, there’s a few things we can do to better handle our cultural biases and design for cultural nuances:

  1. Awareness — realizing that this problem does, in fact, exist
  2. If possible, test with an international market. Conducting usability tests will catch pain points in different demographics and cultural contexts. I know, this is a lot to ask if there aren’t resources allocated in the budget for this, but this is truly invaluable. And, you could provide a very strong business case as to why this matters.
  3. Localize copy and content beyond a 1–1 literal translation. Lots and lots of things get lost in 1–1 translations. Have you ever been in a foreign country and solely relied on google translate? Yeah, didn’t quite work out too well, did it? Localization captures cultural references, idioms, grammar, as well as words that don’t exist in other languages. For example, there’s no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ equivalent in Chinese languages
  4. Flexible layout: Some languages, once translated, have longer words than the language it was being translated from. Flexible layouts take into account word length and makes sure the layout doesn’t break. For example, the five letter word sorry translates to a 17 letter Utoqqatsissutigaa in Greenlandic — the local language spoken in Greenland and Denmark.
McDonald’s China vs. McDonald’s Saudi Arabia



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Erin Newby

Product Designer @Verizon. Just my thoughts on all things design. A11y advocate.