Kairavi Chahal
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International UX: A Blog

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