It was 1999. America’s leading auction site, eBay was gradually expanding to global markets. With an eye on Japanese customers, eBay replicated the US model, purchased a local domain and translated their US site into Japanese. Three years after launching this site, eBay pulled out due to poor performance. Apart from massive local competition, eBay also faced problems due to inability to understand the limitations of web design without accounting for cross cultural factors.

Poor cross-cultural user interface for the eBay Japan site translated into huge abandonment rates and risk-averse Japanese customers simply refused to part ways with credit card details at sign-up stage. So a multinational language ecommerce site has to approach the web design process keeping cross cultural factors in mind. Moving into foreign markets is an effective strategy for building global presence. Unfortunately, even large multinational ecommerce firms fail to understand the importance of  adapting to linguistic and cross-cultural variations.

Identifying language and cultural gaps is critical to effective design. It is no longer enough to offer a site translated into different languages. Users also want the site to acknowledge unique cultural characteristics and business practices. Cultural differences impact trust, marketing success, technology adoption as well as UI/UX of the website. If a brand does not adapt to cultural and linguistic differences, it will fail to create value. Here’s how website design can be truly universal.

#1 Find Cultural Differences Within Close Proximity

One of the biggest mistakes website designers make while approaching sites for different yet neighbouring countries is to assume they are culturally the same. In particular cultures, certain design patterns are universal, however. On account of Facebook or Gmail user interface designs, kebab and hamburger menus are a common choice for revealing options like navigation links. However, taking the icons out of their cultural environment in the West into the Orient can confuse users. For example, the symbols don’t universally or routinely impact UI in China.

Research by Tencent found most popular and well-used apps in China like WeChat and Weibo don’t utilise hamburger or kebab symbols. Instead of this, there is a discover button accompanied by compass icons used for non-essential extras.

Different users across cultures react to design patterns in unexpected ways, therefore. For instance, localised landing pages created by Mozilla Firefox for countries around the world referenced cross-cultural differences. While the US site is minimalistic, clean and has a clear call-to-action, the Chinese version has more content such as banners, ads and news that fill an available space.

This is due to the difference in the individualism-collectivism dimension across cultures. While America is a highly individualistic society, China is a collective one. Language also plays a role in how users interact with information. Chinese Firefox sites differ because typing the Chinese language takes longer and precise words cannot be found. Search does not work well therefore, so sites need to be optimised for browsing.

Referencing UI patterns, rooted in cultural and linguistic systems is far more efficient than working on web design that does not match the needs and requirements of a particular linguistic and cultural demographic.

  • Localising Market Copies and Technologies

Understanding the need to localise terminologies is vital. Localising copy for each country and cross-correlating the data with Google Trends is essential, therefore, rather than just translating the content literally. If the product on the site is being positioned for local consumption, the copy must be evaluated and written with the knowledge and regional and national language nuances.

Most multinational language ecommerce sites make the error of resorting to mechanised translation to save cost and time. But machine translations are hard to manage if the right vendor or technologies are not used. For example, ‘m’ stands for mobile in Western languages yet means nothing in Chinese. While composing copy for different cultures, it is best to have a local copywriter on the job. Relying on machine translations can make businesses and their sites rank low on relevance and coherence.

  • Identify Smart Devices Deployed

Identifying how a market accesses your site is also essential for Pathwwway limited. For example, if you’re targeting Silicon Valley employees, it might be correct to assume that your users may have the latest iPhones and design as per this. When designing for fresh markets, it is important to avoid assumptions and commence with solid research.

Opting for complex designs without understanding the smart devices used to access the site leads to an unusable, irrelevant web design. Context is important while designing across cross cultural and linguistic divides. According to Localisation Industry Standards Association, investing in localised design returns USD 25 dollars for every dollar spent. Increase in conversion rates takes place, when web designers incorporate localisation. This is why global brands across Starbucks, Netflix and IKEA invest in localisation

The power of content to travel across cultural boundaries depends on how well researched, targeted and relevant it is for specific audiences. It is vital to be creative yet culturally relevant in the use of colours and aesthetics. Red, for example, in most cultures symbolises drive and power. In India, however, it stands for purity and in China, for good fortune. Black is a colour of mourning in the West, and white a symbol of celebration. This is reversed in Eastern cultures.

Additionally, some languages may require more space than others and altering the layout of the website is essential, in this context. Some languages are read right to left, instead of left to right. So, left hand navigation tool menus are a useful feature in such cases.

Cultural and linguistic diversities can divide your audience. Being aware of how a site can generate content tailored to an audience is essential. This will also ensure the website receives traffic across different countries and channels. Appreciating the differences in language and culture can make a multinational ecommerce site a resounding success. So, while the internet makes the world smaller, global businesses like WeChat, Amazon and Google know the importance of localisation when they expand to fresh markets.

Globalisation is undoubtedly one of the biggest business buzzwords of the present century. MNC ecommerce businesses now operate internationally, thanks to the advent of the internet era and affordable methods of online marketing, communications as well as networking. While building a website for a global audience, it is important to keep the nuances and differences in mind and design as per cultural sensitivities and linguistic variations, if you want a site that resonates with a particular culture and community.

Posted by IT Pathwwway