Websites that are considered cross-cultural have a depth and breadth to their approach that is beyond many web designers’ understanding if they only work in a single market. Essentially, these types of websites are a right fit for a certain country and the culture that’s prevalent there. They may even be regional within certain countries that have various local languages and different cultural cues. This article explains what cross-cultural design is, and the key things that need to be considered.
Cross-Cultural Web Design 101
Cross-cultural web design doesn’t just consider language translation via a translation agency; it also thinks about other aspects that affect the success of the website. The different interests and sensibilities in one country versus another – even in the same continent or across a single land border – can be hugely different.
For instance, while Americans frequently refer to planned travel in 1-2 countries within Europe as “I’m going to Europe this summer,” the reality is that it barely tells anyone what their experience will be like. However, knowing the countries they’ll visit is far more informative about the landscape, the people, the cuisine, the culture, and their history too. It’s a night and day difference! Similarly, websites need to also differentiate to be successful, and web design must reflect that need.
Suggested Implementations for Cross-Cultural Web Design
Websites need to be translated using a translation service to get the language right. It’s insufficient to use an automated tool for this, even if it has an AI component because too many mistakes will be made. A reliable translation company like Global Voices is going to not only know how to translate English into Spanish, but also the different phrases used in Spain versus Mexico. Even how some words are pronounced is different between these two countries, and it changes which words are suitable versus those to avoid. This is especially true when the local meaning is different.
Redesign to Accommodate Text Display Differences
English is fairly compact compared to Spanish or French where 15 percent up to 25 percent or more words are used to convey a similar meaning. The case is more serious in Germany where about one-third more words are required. When accommodating character display, many Asian languages require considerably more space to show them on a screen too. The result of this is that websites need to be reconfigured and sometimes redesigned to look good and accessible when converting them to other countries and languages.
Images and Graphics
Due to the different local meanings for various symbols and images, these need to be individually reviewed to ensure they:
- Have the same meaning once translated
- Are acceptable in the new country
- Convey product information in the best light
Sometimes, images have a different historical meaning, making them inappropriate. Other times, the word may translate properly but isn’t the primary one used to describe that type of product.
Some languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right. Usually, a site needs to read similarly but in the opposite direction to be accepted. Otherwise, the site will look completely out of place. When accounting for changes due to different cultures, preferences, and display requirements, it’s possible to correctly market to other citizens and not make vital mistakes when doing so. Then the website is likelier to be accepted more readily and generate greater revenue for its owners. Trying to do the opposite is going to be an unnecessary uphill struggle.