When expanding a business globally, companies usually translate the texts into different languages and hope for the best.
Each country has its own visions and perspectives, so every design also has to be adapted to each market's needs - that's simply good user experience.
How we express culture differs from country to country. With such a wide variety of cultures and customs, it can be easy to bemuse, displease, or offend people when communicating a brand on the global stage.
Localization Goes Beyond Language
For example, the CTA on the right-hand side of your website might work just fine for your US audience, but what if it goes unseen by your French and German customers?
Or, what if your international customers are reaching the payment page but leaving without completing the payment, while on your home-language page, locals are using it just fine? That could prove there's a problem with the payment methods you're offering.
Maybe all your images feature people standing on their own. That may work in the UK and the US because people feel an individual, a personal connection to the person in the image. But in other cultures (for example, in India and Saudi Arabia), collective identity is much stronger, so images of groups of people could be more effective.
If your German customers have a much lower download rate compared to all your other users, that shows there's probably a UX issue that needs to be sorted out immediately.
Getting international UX right can be tough. There's a lot to think about, a lot that can very quickly go wrong, and a lot that you just can't assume about how your different customers act online.
Design with flying colors
The color blue, for example, can be soothing and represent trustworthiness to Americans. Blue to Mexicans is their color of mourning. But did you know that blue is an essential color in France? It's the national color, and French people generally have a positive reaction to it.
Testing your 'Buy now' button color in blue on your French site could lead to more clicks. However, in Germany, people have a more problematic relationship with the national colors—lots of yellow, red, and black on your site is likely to put them off.
The expression "to paint the town red" in English has a positive meaning, but in other countries, like in Africa for example, it might be understood as death... which can lead to a huge misunderstanding!
In Western cultures, green is nature and luck, but in China, it's associated with infidelity and if a man is wearing a green hat it means his wife is cheating on him! Some countries might associate it with the military, and others to jealousy and greed. In Israel, for example, it symbolizes bad news.
Also, using symbols may not have the effect you intended. A tick or checkmark indicates 'yes' or that something is correct in English-speaking countries. In Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Japan, that same mark can symbolize an error, or the word 'no.'
There are endless details to take into account. So remember, before globalizing your business, it's essential to build a proper localization strategy to adapt your entire digital presence to each of your markets.