Navigating Cultural Connection: 10 Vital Localization UX Principles

Summary: Localization is more than just translation. Translation is the starting point for connecting with target markets with the goal of access to messages. However, cultural connection on a language level only offers partial fulfillment of localization UX goals. Instead, it is important to conduct global user research to bring cultural insights and cultural sensitivity, and ‘cultural fit’ to a product or service localization effort.

Localization requires a UX-led approach where culturability is at the center. Culturability means your design works for that culture. It bypasses the feeling of not being understood and feels local and familiar to that culture.

Exceptions to the rule to note

There are certain American brands, namely Starbucks, Apple, and a few others who deliberately do not localize and instead appeal to a globalization “exclusive American feel” with their brand and product-service entry. In short, they appeal to markets that want it to be America, are fine if it is in English, and consume “foreign” for the experience alone. This is the exception, and even major American brands (such as McDonald’s) find it necessary and essential to offer cultural fit or cultural acceptability in language, exclusive to that market experiences and more.

The following localization UX principles are based on Experience Dynamics’ extensive work with localization projects over several decades.

The 10 Principles…

  1. translation-led approach to localization will miss out on important UX skills. A UX Lead can bring these skills to a localization project: cultural (user) advocacy, research-based evidence, and rich ethnographic insights. Instead, treat your multi-country project like a localization UX problem, not a translation one.
  2. Localization UX involves centering your localization approach around culturability- ease of cultural acceptance. UX research and design techniques are used to align and de-risk design for other cultures.
  3. Cultural insights need to be understood before design. Even translation efforts require cultural meaning to do what translators call ‘transcreation’. It means localizing words & phrases (think in-country UX Writer) for meaning-fit.
  4. Any level is local. For example, localization can be considered making things work for your local user community. Local has three levels: Community level, Regional level, and National level. For some, contacting users is new so you can think of user contact as localization (company culture vs user culture).
  5. Getting to know the rules and expectations of another culture before you design for them is what it’s all about.
  6. Conduct behavioral analysis of your target locale. Use PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental).
  7. Global user field research is essential to spot cultural and behavioral trends, patterns, cultural cues, and expectations (mental models).
  8. Localization UX occurs at the start of product or service development. Localization UX gathers evidence, seeks validation, and adjusts design strategy for a seamless cultural fit.
  9. How localization UX gets done. First, use Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Next, conduct in-country culture research. Finally, specify a UX design strategy based on cultural insights. After that, you can prototype and test with target country users for each locale. From here, a product or service can be built and translated (Machine Learning provided or a simultaneously translated Web session).
  10. Global user testing is key to performing with the intended target country audience.

Focus on culturability from the start. Next, expanding your definition beyond translation will help you create a better cross-cultural user experience.

Learn more in this webinar over in Frank Spillers UX Inner Circle: Beyond Translation: Getting cross-cultural design right Miniclass

Beyond Translation: Getting cross-cultural design right Miniclass

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