Kairavi Chahal
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International UX: A Blog

Week 9: Cross-Cultural Teams


  • Global UX, chap. 6 and chap. 5.

  • Davis (2018)_Core Values Matter


Global UX: Chapter 5

  • “It takes the ability to recognize that you are in an environment, that you're in an all-encompassing environment, to recognize the elements of what those things are, before you can even begin to attempt to make a change.”

  • “People who work outside of corporate headquarters feel a strong difference between themselves, and talk about HQ, the central hub, or the mother ship. People working from the center talk about the regions and the markets, as though they are abstract entities, instead of colleagues and equals.”

    • I have definitely experienced this, working at two different offices of the same company. But I have also seen cross-region collaboration build huge products. So maybe teams/companies find their own equilibrium. And definitely different teams and departments within a company have different cultures too.


    • I think outsourcing has a negative connotation of just dumping your work on an external entity, while what this section talked about was more like collaborating with external designers. And collaboration is known to have mostly positive connotations.

Global UX: Chapter 6

  • “At one end of the U, traditional teams, made up of people from a single country, formed a unified team identity easily. In the middle, teams with low diversity, such as a team with one dominant group and a few people from other countries, formed subgroups and internal factions easily. These teams were the least effective. At the other end of the U, highly diverse teams with many cultures represented also worked well.”

    • Interesting. Makes sense though, if you think about it. I wonder if there is a similar relationship between size of teams and how well they work.

  • “Cultural differences in communication style can affect how well the team works.”

    • I think it could also help to actually acknowledge the differences so that everyone can make more of an effort to communicate clearly . Or at least acknolwedging the fact that there are differences.

Davis: Core Values Matter

  • “[…] consistency between their messages and the values expressed in their products, services, and/or social behavior.”

  • “Social media shifted the power relationship between people and companies.”

  • Honesty and authenticity are particularly important to younger audiences.”

    “[…] more likely to buy from a company that is doing good things for the world.”

    • This made me also think of how when we are adapting a product to different cultures, we also have to account for different age groups with a culture. I’m sure there are countries where the intergenerational culture is vastly different.

  • “[…] found a positive relationship between corporate financial performance and corporate social performance […]”

    • But it’s hard to convince companies of this. Most decisions are made based on what has a direct impact on the bottom line.

  • “radical transparency”

    • This is a good strategy that more companies should adopt, particularly the likes of Facebook and Google. It is also important to have intra-company transparency. Often, employees are also not aware of decisions are being made based on their work.

  • “[…] worker ownership, workforce and board diversity, inclusive governance, supply chain screening, living wage, schedule flexibility, and primary caregiver leave.”

  • “[…] accountable to measures different from those of function, appearance, and client satisfaction.”

    • Yes, we need to have new ways of measuring success of a company, but at the end of the day it all boils down to money.

  • “We must be aware of our own biases.”
    ”Making these assumptions explicit and visible creates the opportunity for reflection and repair.”

    • True as ever. If I have learned one thing in this program, it’s to be aware of biases and assumptions.

Kairavi Chahal
Week 8: Developing for Emerging Economies


  • At-home Exercise: Single-story advice 

  • Winter & Govindarajan, Engineering Reverse Innovations

  • Sathikh & Kumar, Global Product Design

  • Frazier, P&G diapers in China

  • Gillette Spent a Fortune on a Razor

  • Chavan, Washing machine that ate my sari


Single Story Advice

I couldn’t really think of a profound anecdote about a time when my perception of someone was shaped by a ‘single story,’ but a couple examples popped into mind — assuming all Indians / South Asians can handle spicy food; or having a bias against country music before learning that country music is actually what led to rock music being formed (now my bias is just against contemporary country music :P).

Some steps to minimize single-story biases:

  • Be humble and open to learning about different cultures

  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong

  • Ask questions but respectfully

  • Don’t be defensive


Sathikh: Global Product Design

  • “[…] the world has become a global market place, or a ‘global village,’ where each and every consumer shares similar values, lifestyles and desires for product quality and modernity.”

    • Dangerous assumption. I think designers should be prioritizing user needs, and not business ‘needs’ of expanding.

  • “[…] ‘globally-oriented-mass-produced goods’ believing that the homogeneity of global culture, the similarity of thinking and the cost increase in accommodating design nuances of foreign cultures into products would be good reasons for encouraging such ‘global’ products worldwide.”

  • “[…] the emotional and cultural backdrop against which the users perceive the products and make their decision to buy.”

  • “[…] culture has been used as a method to exploit the sales and consumption side of products being designed, rather that study how technology and products may affect culture and user behavior.”

    • Exactly!

  • “In adopting this transitive culture, modern Indians reconcile their traditions and practice […]”

    “How does one that a transitive culture will bring about behavior changes to users? Which of them will be permanent? When does transitive culture become culture?”

    • From what I gather, transitive culture is a local culture picking and choosing what parts of other cultures to adopt into their daily lives. At least this way, the target culture has a choice, even though it may be unconscious. In the Pampers article, it just seemed like the Chinese consumers weren’t really given a choice.

Frazier: P&G diapers in China

This article just rubbed me the wrong way. It was less about the actual P&G approach, but just how it was written/presented. Maybe both.

  • “The disposable diaper — a throwaway commodity in the West — just wasn’t part of the cultural norm in the Chinese nursery.”

  • “[…] wrongly assuming that parents would buy them if they were cheap enough.”
    “It took us a while to figure out that softness was just as important to moms in a developing market.”

    • I was slightly offended by this notion of these ‘multinational companies’ just assuming that cost is the most important factor in an emerging market and that they’d be able to sneak sub-quality product by consumers in emerging markets.

    • “softness was just as important to moms in a developing market” Puh-lease. That should have been the assumption to begin with, and then do research to prove otherwise.

  • “There’s still the challenge of making disposables a habit.”
    ”We really had to change the mindset and educate [mothers] that using a diaper is not about convenience for you — it’s about your baby’s development.”

    • This idea also made me a little uncomfortable. Capitalism being forced upon emerging markets, guilting parents into using diapers…I don’t know — I’m not convinced. Humans have been getting along just fine for millennia without disposable diapers? I know they did some studies, but that’s like big tobacco funding studies that say cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

    • Anyway, I think my main gripe is with the way the article is written (maybe not so much with the companies’ approaches). “making disposables a habit” — why do you want to force a culture to change? Ethically, should you? Even if you think you’re doing the right thing?

Gillette Spent a Fortune on a Razor

This is a classic example — read this article in two other classes already! Haha.

  • “[…] companies must tweak them so they’re relevant to the people who live there. And often, that means rethinking everything from the product’s design to the its cost.“

  • “[…] widespread poverty present challenges for companies used to customers with more disposable income.“

  • “We asked them what their aspirations were […]”

    • Asking the real questions! There are so many underlying factors that affect how and why people do things, that in turn affects how they use products — the deeper a researcher goes, the better they’ll be able to design.

Chavan: Washing Machine That Ate My Sari

  • “But consumers and users are always local.“

  • “Designers need to gain a deep, almost tactile awareness of the culture and context of their target market […]“

  • “[…] understanding who you’re designing for, what the needs of those users are, how you hope to enrich their lifestyles and well-being, and why the enterprise wants to reach that target market.“

    • I think the last two points were missing from the diaper article, which is what bugged me a little bit.

  • “[…] conditions are different, use patterns are different, the thinking is different.“

  • “How will the product or service help people improve their productivity or lifestyle? Will it answer health-related issues or even be considered healthy? Will its content, function, or design run into cultural norms that will impede its adoption?“

    • These questions are important to ask before even (re)designing the product, I feel. This should be taken into consideration when making the decision to target a market.

  • “They may need to delve into a country’s history, religious beliefs, climate, geography, languages, aesthetics and, sometimes, its popular culture.“
    “[…] subtle nuances like speech protocols or the ways dining implements are used.“

  • “[…] designers did not broadly, deeply, and fundamentally understand specific target markets […]“
    ”[…] assume that needs are the same across emerging markets.”

  • “[…] products were designed locally.“

  • “[…] there are many Indias. ‘[What] confounds people about India is that everything you say about it, the opposite is also true.“

    • Can confirm, lol.

  • “what is cheap ends up being expensive.”

    • A lesson not only for consumers, but also for manufacturers.

  • “The trouble is that the emerging consumer […] is looking to be seduced rather than patronized.“

  • “If the failure to understand the target market is the cardinal sin that causes so many other emerging design missteps, it is using traditional methods of design that causes designers to misunderstand their target market in the first place.“

Winter: Engineering Reverse Innovations

  • “This process called ‘reverse innovation’ because it’s the opposite of the traditional approach of creating products for advanced economies first, allows companies to enjoy the best of both worlds.”

  • “[…] the problem stems from a failure to grasp the unique economic, social and technical contexts of emerging markets.“

    • The ideal situation would be if designers could live in the market they were designing for…or you know, actually be from the country they are designing for. The issue here is lack of training/education in other countries, combined with it being too expensive to hire a new, local designer for every market. A compromise could be to work alongside local researchers and designers.

  • “Define the problem independent of solutions.”

    • Currently struggling with this in Capstone!

  • “Trying to reduce the price by eliminating features.“

  • ”[…] optimal solution […] using the design freedoms available in emerging markets.”
    “[…] the engineers wouldn’t have thought of using it if they weren’t trying to achieve high performance at a low price — a requirement specific to emerging markets.“

    • I think it’s less about “freedoms” but just that the constraints are different. Which does help a lot when trying be innovative.

  • “In addition to asking who the end product user will be and what he or she needs, companies must consider who will make the product, distribute it, sell it, pay for it, repair it, and dispose of it.“

  • “[…] users expose design flaws that only they can notice.“

    • That’s why testing and iterating is important. Which I feel like a lot of Gillette and Pampers didn’t really do? Gillette just did the research (even though it wasn’t in the local market) and then rolled out the product without testing it in the local market first. Seems like a big oversight.

  • “Western companies tend to assume that consumers in developed markets, who are brand-conscious and performance-sensitive, will never want products from emerging markets, even if their prices are lower.“

  • “Thus, while the constraints in Eastern Europe forced Renault to create a new auto design, the result was a product that delivered high value at low cost to consumers in Western Europe as well.“

  • “Gillette had identified a latent need.“

    • I like this article as it went into more detail about the Gillette case study and provided a broader perspective about it. Like, the things that Gillette did right.

    • They also identified a need, not like Pampers, which tried to change consumers, rather than addressing their needs.

Kairavi Chahal
Week 7: Translation/Localization


  • Bellos on translation (3 chaps.)

  • Aykin and Milewski, "Practical Issues"

  • At-home Exercise: Machine translation exercise

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

At-home Exercise: Machine Translation

Since my Hindi isn’t too strong anymore (10 years since I last studied it) — I decided to translate some famous couplets by Kabir Das, a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint. These couplets are often quoted in situations where a proverb might be used — giving advice or some wisdom about life. These are often repeat by parents, much to the annoyance of their children (I can attest, from personal experience :P)

  1. सुख मे सुमिरन ना किया, दु:ख में करते याद ।

    कह कबीर ता दास की, कौन सुने फरियाद ॥
    ”Did not sum up in happiness, remembering doing in sorrow.

    Say Kabir Ta Das, who has heard the pleaad.”

  2. रात गंवाई सोय के, दिवस गंवाया खाय ।

    हीरा जन्म अमोल था, कोड़ी बदले जाय ॥
    ”The night is lost, the day is eaten.

    Diamond birth was Amol, Cody would be changed.”

  3. दुःख में सुमिरन सब करे सुख में करै न कोय।

    जो सुख में सुमिरन करे दुःख काहे को होय ॥
    ”Do everything in happiness without doing anything in happiness.

    The one who comforts himself in happiness, is in pain.”

  4. बडा हुआ तो क्या हुआ जैसे पेड़ खजूर।

    पंथी को छाया नही फल लागे अति दूर ॥
    ”What happened if it grew like tree dates?

    The sect was not shadowed too far”


  • Did MT translate any of your text correctly? If so, what?

    • It got certain words right, but barely any of the grammar. There were also several words that were completely wrongly translated, or not translated at all. Hindi is a very high-context language, since one word can have several varied meanings that are often not even related to each other.

  • Assuming that your poem contained some poetic language, allegory, alliteration, symbolism and/or emotional ideas, what concepts in the source were completely missed by the MT output? Show some examples of this in your report.

    • 3rd couplet — the translation almost inverts the meaning of the entire couplet. The translation would be: “Everyone prays during bad times, no one prays during good times. But if you prayed during good times, there wouldn’t be bad times.” However, from the machine’s translation, the last line “the one who comforts himself in happiness, is in pain” almost implies that you should pray in happiness because then you will sad? Weirdly the exact opposite of what the couplet is saying.

    • 4th couplet — the English translation makes no grammatical sense at all. What the couplet is really trying to say is: “So what if you’re big/tall like a date tree? You’re of no use to a traveller because you provide shade.” The deeper meaning being: “Size or might isn’t everything; utility and function are more important.”

  • How do you think the translation could be improved?

    • I’m not really sure how Google Translate works exactly, but I imagine it uses a dictionary to look up words and do a word-by-word translation. It then probably applies some grammar rules at the end, but the grammar rules (especially those concerning order of words are quite fuzzy in Hindi). So I imagine to improve the translation, it would help if there were some existing translations it could “learn” from or cross-reference at least. I.e., machine learning or artificial intelligence. Since these were poems, it’s extra hard to translate — even for a human.

  • It’s really difficult to ensure that metaphors are not lost when we translate things from one culture to another—poetry is really difficult to translate for human beings. Any chance an MT engine could ever get this right, based on the context and content of this poem?

    • I think it would be quite impossible for MT to translate couplets like these accurately. These couplets say one thing on the surface, but are referring to something completely different on a deeper level.


Aykin: Practical Issues

This is a good chapter to have as a reference when doing some of the translation or internationalization work required of designers.

  • “The quality of translation is highly correlated with how well and clearly the original text is written.”

    • This was an especially good point, that applies to the entire design process as well. If your original design is conceived with internationalization in mind, then it will be easier to do so, and the results will be better too.

Bellos: Is That A Fish In Your Ear?

In general I liked these chapters, but had a tough time linking them directly to UX. I would definitely read the rest of this book though, seems interesting.

  • “The evidence itself brought him to see that any attempt to match the grammar of a language with the culture of its speakers or their ethnic origins was completely impossible. “Language,” “culture,” and “race” were independent variables.”

    • Bellos doesn’t go into too much detail about how Sapir came to this conclusion, but I think Sapir meant it like: you could take an individual from any “race” and teach them another language or immerse them in another culture and they could be perfectly competent at it — hence implying that those are independent variables. However, I’m not fully convinced of this, since growing up with a certain of those three variables would definitely impact the other two. They may be independent of each other, but there is definitely a confounding/hidden variable that links them.

    • Anyway, I guess I’m a little confused about this part, since a lot of the other readings we’ve been doing claim that language and culture are inextricably linked.

  • “What distinguishes translating UP from translating DOWN is this: translations toward the more general and more prestigious tongue are characteristically highly adaptive, erasing most of the traces of the text’s foreign origin; whereas translations DOWN tend to leave a visible residue of the source, because in those circumstances foreignness itself carries prestige.”

    • I could see this concept being applied when translating or internationalizing websites and apps, but I wonder whether it would be “ethical” of designers to assume that one language is more “prestigious” than another and let that assumption influence their translation decisions. I can imagine two very different outcomes if designers assume they are translating UP/DOWN vs. translating laterally. Should the audience get to choose what translation they receive, or should the translators decide?

    • On the other hand, if used as loose guideline, this could be helpful in making certain decisions — when considering how familiar the target audience is with certain concepts. In the example about the French Série Noire, it makes sense that the translators chose to use American-sounding names to preserve ‘authenticity.’ (Although the use of the word “deceive” might indicate otherwise.)

(I hope I am making sense and not just rambling…)

  • I appreciate Nida’s distinction between formal and functional equivalence. As a bilingual person, functional equivalence is so important — there is never a one-to-one mapping between ideas or words.

  • Interesting to think about whether translating a translation might actually work better when localizing websites. If you could translate from a language/culture that is closer to the one you want to translate to, you’d be likelier to get a better translation?

  • “[…] foreignism, calque, or a semantic expansion. Each of them changes the target language by one item, with possible repercussions over time on the use and form of other words. But cultural substitutions would simply put some other, more or less analogous activity current in the world of Aramaic speakers in the place of ‘jazzercising.’”

    • What could be some unintended repercussions of cultural substitutions, though? Isn’t it important to explain the context of the “fig leaf” to the Malay? Isn’t it important to preserve the original expression? I guess the intention/reason for translating plays an important role in answering those questions.

    • After reading further, Bellos does address the issue of preserving the original work. However, he makes the distinction between translating UP vs. DOWN. I’d argue it’s more about the purpose of the translation, rather than the direction. But yeah, in general, everything depends on context!

    • I am also curious about the power dynamic and Euro-centrism of translators (at least in the examples mentioned in these chapters). There are no examples about translating from, say, Hindi to Japanese. Those two cultures have a very different historical context than European countries and Japan or European countries and India. Maybe Bellos will address this later on… * continues reading *

    • It all comes down to “paying respect where respect is due.”

  • “[…] the reciprocal flow of translation between any two languages is never equal and in most cases unbalanced.”

    • Yay, Bellos acknowledged it!

Kairavi Chahal
Week 6: Culture and the Design Process


In-class exercises and at-home assignments

At-home Exercise: Fitness/Health app exercise

I chose to adapt the Nike Run Club app for Saudi Arabia.

It was fairly easy to find articles about general cultural attitudes, but it was harder to find information about specific symbols, etc. Horton and Aykin provided good examples, but I feel like they were too anecdotal and didn’t include all possible symbols ever, so it was hard to know if something would need to be changed or not. I got around this by posing questions that the designer could ask a local or do more research about, rather than providing concrete changes.




Global UX: Chapter 8

  • “Debriefing as you go keeps the information fresh.”

    • This is definitely something I’ve noticed and learned very quickly, in my limited experience with user research.

  • “[A research] expo is a full-day event during which people experience the research instead of reading about it. They take over a room for a day and set up a self-guided exhibit of posters, artifacts, and videos from the research. People can wander through it like a gallery, taking in all in. Members of the study team are there to talk about the findings with them.”

    • I like this because it makes the research very real to other stakeholders. Often just a report seems boring and doesn’t convey the amount of work that actually went into research.

  • “The more material you have, the easier the story is to create and the more it communicates a depth of understanding. More importantly, stories are especially effective when you are describing a ‘foreign’ place.”

    • This also reminds me of the Sapiens chapter we read earlier — how humans rely a lot on storytelling to make sense of everything and to exchange information.

  • “When storytelling across cultures, we need to take into consideration several things: meaning, context, cultural gaps, important or difficult words/phrases and expressions, worldview, the plot/theme and intended meaning of the story, idiomatic expressions, historical implications, implicit information, frame of reference and shared frame of reference, and so on.”

    • I’m not sure how I feel about the iceberg analogy they use right before this quote. The story is the tip of the iceberg, and the context is hidden underwater. It is true, but when researchers are trying to convey their findings, it is best to expose the entire iceberg. So, maybe it’s more like the Moai statues after they excavated their bodies?

Next Billion Users: Sketch, Scroll, or Swipe?

  • “How do people in this setting relate to technology?”

  • “The less detailed, conceptual designs typically give participants more space to interpret a prototype from their perspective. Paper prototypes may also help reduce positive feedback bias, which is when participants refrain from negative feedback in order to be polite.”

  • “Because the interaction between person and paper isn’t as immediate, this prototype method generally slows the user down long enough to read the text.”

    • An interesting point I hadn’t thought of about paper prototypes.

  • “[…] you should first determine clear goals.”

    • Applicable to all research, not just scroll-style prototypes.

  • “Participants also have more freedom to explore the digital prototype and can learn how to use the application by tapping the screen.”

    • Digital prototypes (usually) allow the user to feel more comfortable. In the example at the beginning of the article, it was an unforeseeable reaction to the digital prototype. How can we think ahead to prevent such situations, in addition to learning from past mistakes?

How Fintech Apps Use UX To Build Trust

  • “But for fintech designers, adding friction is a job requirement.”

    • I like the term friction — just like in physics, it’s good in some cases, and bothersome in others. If it’s put there intentionally, it can be good.

  • “To encourage users to submit accurate info, fintech apps explain why they need this information. Offering a valid reason for requesting personal info allows users to have confidence in the app. They understand why the app needs the info to function properly, so they accurately share their info.”

    • Designers should also use this as a design exercise. As a designer, explaining why you are collecting certain data can help you get rid of unnecessary or irrelevant input fields that sometimes are put into forms and app thoughtlessly.

Zdziarski: Attacking the Phishing Epidemic

This article made me more paranoid about phishing! I thought I’d be pretty good at identifying it, but it talked about some methods of phishing that I hadn’t thought of.

Sambasivan: Connectivity, Culture, and Credit

I like articles like this that can be used as sort of a checklist before starting research, so you can watch out for common mistakes while planning your research as well as when designing.

  • “[…] studying everything from an individual’s daily routines to their values, politics, and local infrastructure to understand how these factors impact the role of technology in their lives.”

    • Similar message as Global UX — take a holistic approach to research and consider all sorts of contextual factors.

  • “Indian law requires public WiFi-users to provide their phone numbers and get a code to access the portal.”

    • Interesting, I didn’t know this was the law. Goes back to the Fintech article, where you should explain to the user why you are collecting certain information.

    • I also feel like laws are often not considered at the beginning of the process, but rather after the design has been created and is being reviewed by the legal team. It would be useful to have a legal consult from the target region as well.

  • “[…] if you can connect with people, you can get news. You can buy and sell things. You can search for information. You can express your identity and engage in conversation and debate.”

    • Hofstede’s dimensions would also come into play here.


Reading the Fintech Apps article reminded me of a few days ago when I was helping my parents in India troubleshoot an issue they were having with the Uber payment system. While trying to find an answer online — I came across Uber’s blog post about how they developed the payment system for South Asia. The funny thing was that they clearly hadn’t solved all the problems because the cash option was causing problems for my parents. This article describes more of the design process than the how they went about the research, but still interesting to read.

Kairavi Chahal
Week 5: User Research & Ethnography


  • Global UX, chap. 7

  • Exercise 1) Design culturally neutral icons

  • Exercise 2) Ethnography on the Edge

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

#1 Design culturally neutral icons

Kit and I designed the following icons for “inbox,” “healthcare” and “security.”

#2 Ethnography on the Edge

Brief summaries and quotes from the articles we read.


Global UX: Chapter 7

  • “To make sure the results would be useful across this longer time frame, they had three sets of goals, with clear time frames for how each set of findings would be used: Immediate; Short term; Three to five years.”

    • This shows how much you really have to plan a research study. You can’t just go into it with a general set of questions, but really think about as many details as possible. So you know which questions to ask and what to look out for. And if you plan even further ahead by thinking about how you will analyze the data you collect, then you can have a successful research project. This of course applies to both local and global research.

  • “‘Getting someone into the lab can get you 70 to 80 percent of the way. You may find the usability answers, but not the cultural issues. You need the extra level of research to get the most out of situation.’ This is especially true if you are working in a culture that is new to you.”

    • This is echoed several times in the chapter, and even throughout the book. It isn’t simply enough to go to that location, but to really try to put yourself in the shoes of the people who live there. It’s not just how they use the app/product but the context they use it in.

  • “You probably want to start with some kind of immersion, just to get to know the environment. Even if you don't have a full project for open-ended research, give yourself some time for what Bill DeRouchey calls "pure discovery." This is time you can spend just looking around to help you frame what the problem is.”

    • In an ideal situation, you would have a lot of time to do this, but usually it doesn’t fit the budget or schedule. A good way to replicate elements of this would be to consume media or culture created by locals in the region you are studying. For example, don’t just watch a documentary about India, but rather watch vlogs posted on YouTube by Indians, since that content is created by Indians and tends to be less edited or filtered.

  • “[…] the same research techniques they use in any project work in global research as well, as long as they were willing to respond to an issues. ‘You can't be too dogmatic. You have to be able to adjust to the situation as it unfolds.’”

    • A good skill to have in life in general — being flexible and knowing when to use which tool.

  • “But most look for people who have the right attitude for the work, are interested in the research location, and have a passion for discovery about other people and cultures.”

    • Also something that was mentioned before, a researcher needs to be open, curious, observant and willing to learn.

  • “First, challenge your assumptions. Being open to experiences that challenge your assumptions is a recurring theme in global UX.”

  • “Getting out of ‘the lab’ isn't just a good tactic to keep your perspective. It's also a way to build your sense of the location and culture. You can just take in the local environment, as Yu-Hsiu Li does when he travels. ‘I like to listen to their radio, and watch their TV, and even go talk to street vendors to try to understand their perspectives and what is popular. It's more about the experience of their life. That's how you can share their experience.’”

  • “Let Them Teach You: This is the essence of ethnography. Instead of collecting "data" about people, the ethnographer seeks to learn from people, to be taught by them… In order to discover the hidden principles of another way of life, the researchers must become a student.” (Spradley 1979)

    • Again, reinforcing the points above.


When designing, I often use The Noun Project for inspiration because they always have multiple versions of the same icon/concept. Plus, the designers are form all over the world, and you can actually see where a specific icon was designed. After taking this class, I realized why they included this information on the website — context and culture matter!

Kairavi Chahal
Week 4: International UI Design/Icons


  • Global UX, chap. 9

  • Horton, "Graphics"

  • At-home Exercise 1) Analyze a "Best Global Site" using bytelevel's criteria

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

#1 Analyze a "Best Global Site" using bytelevel's criteria

I compared 4 locales of the Adobe website — US (English), UK (English), India (English) and Middle East & North Africa (Arabic), as well as mobile US. The visuals of all 5 formats were highly similar and the only major difference was the right-to-left layout of the ME&NA website.

It was interesting to see that Adobe chose to localize by region, rather than country. For example, Middle East and North Africa were combined into 1 website, as was Southeast Asia. This is different from Google’s approach where each language and country has their own localized website. I would guess that this is because Google’s service is highly contextual and lends itself to extreme localization, whereas Adobe’s products are pretty much the same globally, and should be able to be used by creatives regardless of region/language.

Click below to view a table summarizing how well Adobe met byte-level’s criteria, as well as screenshots of the 4 locales I compared.


Global UX: Chapter 9

  • “Thinking globally is really about thinking locally. It's not about sitting somewhere and thinking about all these cultures and markets. It's about actually being in those areas, and serving those markets. Having people who live that culture, involved in the product”

    • Highlighting the synergy between global and local. Also it is important to actually be in-situ for research, or try to immerse yourself as much as possible

  • “Technically, our lives would be a lot easier if globalization meant that things were the same everywhere, but probably don't want that, right?”

    • Standardization — personally, I am tempted to be pro-standardization as it would make a lot of things much easier. For example, making everyone learn English, potentially even adopting English as the only official language. However, what effect could this have on different cultures? And how would such a change even be implemented?

  • “Knowing about these differences is not enough. You have to have local insight to understand how intertwined they are with local customs—and which ones are relevant for your product.”

    • Also echoed in the Horton reading, but everything depends on context. There aren’t really rules that you can follow and apply to every situation, but rather guidelines that tell you what and how to think about the design.

Horton: Graphics — The Not Quite Universal Language

Overall, I think the Horton chapter was interesting to read in terms of anecdotal examples, but I am not convinced about the rigor that went into writing the chapter. For example, Horton’s “Rule” of Global Recognizability is based on a very flimsy premise that most people who use computers also watch movies.

  • “So, graphics might seem the logical choice because, as everyone knows, graphics are a universal language. Unfortunately, many graphics are not universal.”
    “[…] expressing ideas graphically is no guarantee against misinterpretation when viewed by someone from a different culture.”

    • Graphics are still a “language” so they will need to be “translated”

  • “Globalization seeks to make products general enough to work everywhere and localization seeks to create custom versions for each locale.”

    • I would propose to phrase this in terms of people: globalization aims to make the designer’s/developer’s jobs easier, while localization aims to provide a more familiar and pleasurable experience for the user. (?) Just a thought.

  • “Culture is too complex and there are simply too many subcultures within subcultures to produce versions localized for each.”

    • This goes back to previous weeks’ readings where I talked about the balance between a culture and an individual and what we should design for. What is a good way to define a “(sub)culture” to design for? What parameters can we consider when doing this? Because sometimes it’s more appropriate to design for, say, the Pacific northwest, rather than the US. But other times, the reverse might be true.

  • “Cultural stereotypes true in the abstract are often wrong in the particulars or unimportant. People read graphics, cultures do not. Though informed by cultural experiences and meanings, interpretations are not bound by cultural traditions. Taking into account all cultural factors would require thousands of distinct versions for every product.”

    • Again, to what level should we individualize experiences and how do we strike that balance? Would depend on what the project is and who the target users are.

  • First, Globalize; Second, Localize
    ”The problem is that depicting these two approaches as diametrically opposed belies their synergy in overcoming cultural barriers.”

    • Important to remember to do both, and plan for both at the beginning of the process. A lot of it is just finding the balance between the two.

  • Alphabetic order is different in different languages — hadn’t even thought of that!

Richardson: Modern hieroglyphics

No quotes, just notes.

  • Set #3, back-of-house icons for Fontainebleu Hotel: looks ridiculous because the objects are out-of-scale, but required in a fast-paced environment for easy recognition

  • Unambiguous

  • Finding the balance between function and beauty

  • Room for creativity while also conveying the message

Jackson: Designing Visual Information for a Global Audience

No quotes, just notes.

  • synecdoche — part for the whole; contrast with gestalt?

  • Jackson et al. refer to “communicat[ing] better with a wider audience”; potential for icons to be a “one-size-fits-all” solution, however we’ve been talking about adapting for different cultures

  • colour — red and green figures in the NYC Subway signs; would that be universally understood as “DO” and “DON’T”?

Personal/Professional inspirations

  • The readings about graphics made me think of my work over the summer where I had to create icons for a map of an indoor space, specifically geared toward people with accessibility needs (motor, visual, aural). I remember thinking about some of the issues mentioned in the Horton reading. His tip about working in black and white first, resonated with me, as that was the approach I had used.

Kairavi Chahal
Week 3: Cultural Dimensions and Design


  • Gasparini

  • Gould

  • Akpem

  • In-class Exercise 1) Analyze websites using cultural dimensions (refer to Gould, Gasparini, and Akpem)

  • At-home Exercise 2) Dimensions for a health-care website for immigrant communities

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

#1 Analyze websites using cultural dimensions

#2 Dimensions for a health-care website for immigrant communities

Hofstede’s Dimensions:

  • Power Distance

  • Uncertainty Avoidance

  • Masculinity

  • Indulgence

  • Individualism

Schwartz’ Dimensions:

  • Hierarchy

  • Mastery

  • Affective autonomy

  • Egalitarian

Example Survey Questions

We would ask the immigrant community the following questions in a survey. This would help us gauge what is important to the community and what their approach to healthcare is.

  • I would like to see all of the services available no matter the cost

  • I would like to know where my provider got their degree and their training background

  • I would like to know all of the potential risks involved with the procedure

  • I need to see the best healthcare providers

  • I want access to extra services that aren’t necessary to keep me alive, but will make me feel better about myself and my life

  • I need assurances that my information is private

  • I need a provider that can see my family and friends, not just me

Walkthrough Current Healthcare Website

We would also observe some members of the community and ask them to walk us through their current healthcare provider’s website to figure out what the pain-points are.


Akpem: Cultural Factors in Web Design

The Akpem article was very clear and succinct in getting its point across. I liked the examples of actual website designs and how they differed across cultures. The Pepsi one especially stood out to me.

  • “As we design for ever larger audiences and as the web reaches deeper into homes and private lives, we need to think more about how our sites contribute to these cultures.”

    • The first thing that struck me about this line was that we are designing for larger audiences, and often one person or team has to design for all the different cultural versions of a website or app. Due to this expectation, combined with a lack of time and resources, we usually end up designing for one culture first and then adapting later. It is important to practice “distributed design” when possible, where we are thinking about all cultures from the get-go.

    • The second thing that I liked about this line was that we also need to think about how our designs affect the cultures — the outer layer is just about how, say, a brand will be perceived by the culture; or if a certain advertisement might be offensive. However the deeper layer here would be to think about whether we are imposing our own cultures and prejudices onto others. For example, when I think about the fast vs. slow messaging variable that Akpem talks about, I automatically compare India and the US. India tends to be more of an easy-going culture where you can’t expect things to get done too quickly. However, with globalization and American companies expanding to Indian markets (both in terms of selling products but also hiring workers), India is being ‘forced’ to adapt to a more fast-messaging style. Of course this is inevitable when two different cultures work together — there will be some averaging of their characteristics — however it’s important for both cultures to acknowledge this.

Gasparini: Vive la Difference!

(BTW, I appreciate the diversity of the authors we are reading this week! ^_^)

  • “[…] usability can only be assured if future systems will be designed in a culture-oriented way”
    ”The influences of cultures can be seen […] in the design process, e.g., culture influences higher level design issues, the design method employed in building interfaces and usability methods.”

    • Reinforcing the fact that internationalization/localization/globalization should be thought about during the entire design process and not just at the end.

  • “Globalization has achieved a level of homogeneity of cultures through the influence of multinationals and of mass media communication and information. It could be said that globalization strives for cultural compatibility and destroys its diversity in the process, by denying or ignoring cultural identity. On the other hand it could also be argued that some originally homogeneous societies are becoming heterogeneous be becoming multicultural societies.”

    • This sort of goes back to what I was saying in the second point of the Akpem quote above. The question of losing diversity vs. gaining greater compatibility is a tough line to walk. Since there are advantages to both, as designers we must constantly be aware of the balance between the two, and design with the aim to keep that balance. For me personally it raises a lot of philosophical questions which are almost overwhelming to think about.

  • “[…] HCI has to move forward and moving beyond the concept of national culture. […] be able to model each user’s cultural background, to adapt user interfaces more precisely.”

    • It is always easy to think about culture in terms of national or ethnic patterns and differences, however some people may identify with a different culture more strongly, could be professional, religious, or some combination of these and others. At what level of preciseness should we stop trying to designing for each unique ‘culture?’

Gould: Synthesizing the Literature on Cultural Values

I like that Gould provides a historical timeline and context about all the work that has been done in this field. Very well laid-out article.

  • “Culture is everywhere—national, ethnic, religious, corporate, family—but it’s not consistent.”

  • “Anthropologists today use a variety of techniques to avoid the unequal power relationships inherent in studies of “exotic” people. Members of the culture collaborate in the research (much as do union members in Participatory Design); […]”

    • This is brought up several times in Gould’s descriptions of various cultural models. Even the concepts of the cultural variables/dimensions are biased and often force other cultures to fit into these dimensions.

  • “[…] studies of “difference” often make it appear that nothing important is shared except the experience of oppression. Unfortunately, the moral imperative to avoid stereotyping and the desire to recognize “authenticity” are antithetical to a utilitarian focus on collaboration.”

    • I find I struggle with this even during class discussions — not sure when something is an actual cultural thing versus just my/another culture’s perception of it. Where do we draw the line between productively discussing other cultures and stereotyping them?

  • “[…] ignorance of cultural patterns and nonverbal communication underlay numerous cases of intercultural miscommunication.”

  • “Before such sojourners can properly interpret messages and events in other cultures, they need to recognize how they have been conditioned by their own.”
    ”Designers should first build a model of their own culture to have a standard for comparison.”

  • “[…] looking beyond the literal content of visual imagery and language and grounding cultural analysis in perception and the underlying grammar of symbol systems.”

  • “[…] recommends identifying international variables for cultural models by surveys and observations, but the first depends on self-report and the seconds on an observer being able to recognize the triggers fo unconscious behaviour.”

  • “Organizational theorists naturally develop theories about the part of the social world that they know and understand. As a result, many such theories are inappropriate and inadequate when applied to other cultures.”
    ”[…] reexamine the validity of Western social science and management theories.”

  • “He decided that people in individualistic societies have greater freedom of action and the opportunity to belong to more groups than people in collectivist societies.”

    • I just think it’s interesting that Gould uses the word “decided” when talking about Triandis developing his cultural model. Not sure if Gould intends it as a comment on the validity of Triandis’ model or if this is actually how Triandis approached his model.

  • “All science is embedded in culture-computer science and interface design no less than social psychology.”

    • Fits with the idea that culture is the software of the mind and you can’t really escape it.


Out of curiosity, I Googled Senongo Akpem and found that he had a portfolio with some pretty cool projects. The one that caught my eye was this critical design piece about publicly displaying your emotions. He also has a (not regularly updated) blog with some cool artwork and more thoughts on UX.


  • I like the concept of using time and space to also define cultural dimensions — human society moulded by the universe, sort of.

  • New terms learned:

    • Nonverbal paralanguage — body language

    • Kinesics — using body movements while talking

    • Parasocial interaction — one-sided relationship between media and audience

  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; makes me think of the Piraha tribe who don’ t have words for numbers or colours. I wonder how it would be to try to teach them English and about colours.

A quick summary of various cultural models and their dimensions

Personal/Professional inspirations

Personal: I feel like I am learning a great deal about myself by reading about the different cultural variables as well as the anecdotes/examples provided in the readings and in class. Having a term to describe something and knowing that it is a thing that other people experience too is reassuring.

Professional: I would almost hope that only local designers get to design for their market/culture; but I also want the chance as a designer to expand my perspective and experiences to design for with different cultures.

Kairavi Chahal
Week 2: Culture Studies and Models


  • Global UX, chaps. 3 & 4

  • Malcolm Gladwell, "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes"

  • Cultural studies presentation

  • Exercise: Visual for a cultural model

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

#1 Cultural Studies Presentation

Our group presented on Minkov Chapter 6.

#2 Visual for a Cultural Model



Global UX: Chapter 3

  • “…it is only by thinking about how two cultures are similar or different that we can talk about what is unique about each of them.”

    • I like the fish analogy that the authors use. Culture is so intangible and closely entangled in everything we do that it can be hard to describe our own or other cultures.

  • “…look beyond individuals to see the whole ecosystem around them. What are the things and the people who surround them and shape their experiences in ways that are relevant to your product?”

    • You can’t design in a vacuum, and there will always be unanticipated factors that affect your design.

  • “People in India typically speak two or three different languages: one language within their family, the Hindi national language, and English.”

    • Actually, Hindi is not the national language of India. It is, though, one of the 23 officially recognized languages — i.e., government business can be conducted in it. It is also pretty widespread and commonly spoken.

  • “[…] most of the world speaks something other than English as their first language, and 75% speak no English at all. […] there is not one big global Web. ‘The Internet has become a bunch of interlinked but linguistically distinct and culturally specific spaces.‘“

    • The statistic was surprising to me, only 25% of people speak English. Perhaps it is because I too am within the Anglosphere, but I wonder how non-English speaking cultures/people get a lot of academic information, since that is mostly in English? (As far as I know.) Or is English just a requirement to enter that realm of education/academia?

Global UX: Chapter 4

  • “People described themselves as open to new experiences, suggested how important it is to be open to new perspectives, and called being open a basic characteristic of a good UX designer or researcher…”

    • Completely agree. Curiosity and genuine interest.

  • “The next day it was raining, so I met some people in the hostel. We spent the day in a café, drinking coffee and wine and chatting and watching people go by and watching the garden a little bit. And it felt much more like I had experienced Paris than the day before.”

    • I like this approach to traveling. This is also how you should approach UX research. Don’t just see the highlights and landmarks, but really experience it as if you already live there.

  • “They won't tell you these little things, so you must observe quietly and then find the right time to ask questions.”

    • How to do research.

  • “You also need to be careful of a sort of time capsule effect. Immigrant cultures tend to represent the peak period of migration. Very quickly, the community can become quite different than their homeland as people become acculturated in their new country. This is especially important if either country has experienced rapid change.”

    • I notice this a lot with some of my aunts, uncles and cousins who emigrated from India.

Outliers: Chapter 7

  • “Planes are safer when the least experienced pilot is flying, because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up.”

    • Mitigated speech — due to organizational hierarchy, in the case of the pilots

  • “…communicate not just in the sense of issuing commands but also in the sense of encouraging and cajoling and calming and negotiating and sharing information in clearest and most transparent manner possible.”

    • This applies to UXers who are designing for another culture as well. It’s not enough to simply just read a book or watch a movie about a culture, but rather you must talk to the people and experience it

  • transmitter-oriented vs. receiver-oriented languages

    • I am very interested in learning about different languages, and this had not occurred to me. That a language/culture could expect the receiver to be responsible for gathering the correct meaning completely boggles my mind. I can’t imagine why such a thing would have originated, as it seems counter-productive to the aim of a language — to communicate.


I started following the UXPod mentioned in Global UX, and listened to the first episode I found that was related to global UX, different cultures, etc. Here are my thoughts on it:

  • Talks about more unique ‘cultures’ that are often not addressed/designed for — e.g. non-binary people, people who have experienced a loss, multi-racial people. Even these are cultures that researchers and designers should go out and find out more about, so they can be more empathetic while designing.

  • Root cause is a homogenous culture at the companies themselves, compounded by a lack of caring or understanding. Algorithms/AI are used as a scapegoat for this lack of caring/understanding.

  • Tech industry itself has cultivated a culture of mystifying how/what they do, so the outside world is not able to hold them accountable. Transparency of culture was mentioned in previous chapters, and should apply not only to geography-based cultures, but also company cultures. Researchers and designers should also acknowledge their own cultures and any biases that may bring.


I attempted to capture everything that influences cultures described in  Global UX, Chapter 3

I attempted to capture everything that influences cultures described in Global UX, Chapter 3


Personal/Professional inspirations

Reading more about other UX designers’ experiences with learning about other cultures for work, I hope I am able to get a job that involves a lot of interaction/learning about other cultures. Traveling would be a plus :)

Kairavi Chahal
Week 1: Course Intro


  • Global UX, chaps. 1 & 2

  • Harrari, "The Tree of Knowledge"

  • Exercise: Time Visualization graphic

In-class exercises and at-home assignments

#1 Meet People

In this exercise we had to go around the room and figure out who spoke which language, had which degree and what interests. I didn’t get to meet the person who speaks ‘pidgin’ — curious about which pidgin they know. Seeing the interests aggregated in this way was really cool, because I realized I had some interests I hadn’t even thought of.


#2 Discuss Time

In groups, we discussed what image came to mind when we thought of ‘time.’ Our group combined symbols into the figure you see here.

  • The triangle is for delta (𝚫) which symbolizes change in mathematics. To me this means time, because without change, there is no time.

  • The circle signifies the continuity of time and how history repeats itself.

  • The line signifies both directionality and motion in time.

#3 Compare Cultures

Using the Hofstede Insights country comparison tool we paired up and compared countries (preferably ones we were familiar with). My group ended up comparing India, Indonesia and Mexico. The countries were fairly similar in most respects, but there was a stark difference in indulgence, with Mexico scoring very high on the scale.


Global UX: Chapter 1

I put in bold the parts I most identified with. This chapter basically encapsulates why we need to learn about other cultures and perspectives, and what sort of attitude to approach that learning with.

  • “When you start designing outside of your own cultural foundation, you have to really pay attention. If you are not open to those insights, you will just miss the opportunity to connect with the person you are designing for. Our design work is about creating a deep-seated emotional connection with people.” — Steve (Doc) Baty

  • “UX starts with understanding the users, but it's not enough to just do a quick usability test or a few interviews, ticking off an item on a list by rote. We learned that doing user research right means putting your assumptions on the table and doing the work to either support or debunk them. It means taking the time to be open, to listen for the nuances of cultural perspectives. And it means helping all team members understand the messages of the research.
    But even after the research sessions and feedback meetings are over, you need the diverse perspectives that bringing together a global team gives you, and ways to make sure that those voices are heard. It takes a long time, perhaps a whole lifetime, to really understand a culture, so teams need
    local voices to contribute to global projects.” — Whitney Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc

Global UX: Chapter 2

  • “Sometimes the flatness of the network means that products find a market they weren't looking for.”

    • I like examples like this where a different target audience ends up benefitting from a product or feature.

  • “Like usability or accessibility, it's better when they are built in from the start.”

    • Convincing stakeholders about this is a challenge, however. When people want to get a project finished quickly and cheaply, these things fall to the wayside.

  • “[…] the need to develop local skills. Some of these stories were about training new talent in markets where the whole idea of UX is still new.”

    • This is something I am thinking about now, as I consider whether I want to move back home to India to work, or stay here. UX Design is not a very established field there yet, but hopefully my training here will be valuable if I do go back.

  • “Innovation and influence no longer flow only from West to East or from industrial to emerging countries.”
    ”People here understand the concepts, but the problem is that they lack local experience, and have no time to try out their ideas.”

    • This is also related to my previous point about emerging markets — India seems to be solving the problem by starting their own versions of existing US companies, allowing them time to learn.

  • “We have to be a lot more disciplined about how we share insights from our interviews.”

    • I agree with this a lot. Good communication is just all-around a valuable skill to practice. Consistency and standardization, saying what you mean, etc.

  • “You can think of yourself as a global person, even if you haven't traveled a lot.”

    • Being aware and having an interest is enough.

  • “Jugaad: A Hindi buzzword that refers to a quickly improvised, innovative solution. It often points to creativity to make something out of existing resources or by repurposing materials, making do with what is at hand.”

    • Interestingly, in my experience this is used as more of a derogatory term colloquially — similar to when people say “That’s so janky.” In this book, it seems to be used in a manner more similar to Macguyver-ing stuff, which has more positive connotations.

Sapiens: Chapter 2

Most of the chapter provides historical context for what makes humans different from animals or other humanoid species. The connection to global UX was a bit unclear, but toward the end made more sense.

  • “Thanks to their ability to invent fiction, Sapiens create more and more complex games, which each generation develops and elaborates even further.“

    • Different cultures can also be thought of as ‘games’ (as the word is used by Harrari).

  • “…in order to understand how Sapiens behave, we must describe the historical evolution of their actions.”

    • This explains the approach we must take, as global practitioners of UX, to understand other cultures.


  • Global vs. local — top-down vs. bottom up. This section reminded me of the comic below. One solution won’t work for everyone; customizing UX for a country, region or culture, will allow everyone to get the most out of the product. Localization leads to globalization (equity).



My notes from  Sapiens, Chapter 2

My notes from Sapiens, Chapter 2


Personal/Professional Inspirations

At the start of this class, I feel like I will learn a lot about the nuances and detailed aspects of global and international UX. I feel like I already agree with the broader, basic concepts — that it is important to understand other cultures before/when designing for them. And it is important to actually design for different cultures.

Kairavi Chahal