Running a successful design business means turning a client’s ideas, or your own, into a tangible product. It’s exciting to launch a website that appeals to users and attracts customers.
The world of design has changed enough, however, that your work will be seen by more than a local audience. The Internet provides the ability for your design to be seen by someone local or someone on the other side of the world.
That’s exciting stuff, as it opens new doors for your design work and for clients of your design work. Or, the purpose of your design work may be because you or your client wants to intentionally target users in other countries.
But that globalization brings with it some factors that impact your work. Someone on the other side of the world will have a different language, background and culture, and therefore a different interpretation of your design. It’s important to consider those factors when you’re doing design work.
And that doesn’t mean simply translating your content into another language.
In fact, one aspect of globalization is known as localization. The Globalization and Localization Association describes localization as “the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market.” One aspect of that is translation, but there are many others, with the end goal of giving a product “the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location.”
You want your end product to be global and local. So let’s take a look at how to design for a global audience with these 11 tips.
If Possible, Know Your Audience The Best You Can
If you know the target audience, country or culture, be sure to do research on that audience before embarking on your design process. Or, research where you think your business will have the best chance at success, and they do learn what you can about that audience.
Understanding your target market as much as possible will help inform all the other components of design for a global audience.
You design a website for your local audience to be user-friendly. The same is true for a global audience. There may be some nuances in how you define “user-friendly” for a global audience, however.
For one, keep it simple and straightforward. That means navigation, layout, and content should all be kept as simple as possible, for some different reasons.
Consider a top-tab navigation design and horizontal layout that will be suitable for languages that read right-to-left as well as left-to-right. Any call-to-action buttons should be placed at the top as well, rather than on the right, which is fine for English readers but not necessarily for other languages.
Ensure that there is space for other languages that may require more words once your content is translated. You may have to actually adopt the design and the layout to properly display text once translated. It may take more lines on the page, for instance, to display a language other than English. Lots of white space will enable you to meet the needs of a variety of languages.
Keep the content relatively simple as well, and remember to consider any local regulations or legal requirements if applicable.
Choose Colours Wisely
Colours have different meanings and connotations in different parts of the world. It’s important to understand if a colour scheme you choose could be considered offensive in another country or culture.
For instance, orange is a colour often associated with autumn in North America. In Japan, it symbolizes courage, and in the Middle East, it’s associated with mourning.
Doing research on colour symbolism will help inform your design work.
Images and Graphics, Too
The same holds true for images. Take a close look at the images you’re considering as part of your design. If they are photos of people, are they diverse? Will they make sense to different cultures? Are they inclusive? Or do they look like your neighborhood and nowhere else?
Be careful with symbols as well. They can have a very different meaning in different countries and cultures. A “thumbs up” can be positive to an English speaker but could be considered offensive to others. What we may consider a universal symbol such as one that represents a website menu or settings may not actually be universally understood.
Once again, some research on the audiences you will be targeting will help inform your choice of photographs, graphics, symbols, and any other images.
If you don’t use too many images, you won’t have to worry as much about using one that is offensive, and as a bonus, your website will load faster (see #2, User-Friendly).
Design for Different Devices
This is a good tip for any kind of design work, but perhaps especially important for a global audience. For instance, maybe you and all your friends use iPads, but that doesn’t mean it’s the device of choice in other countries.
Depending on the area of the world, they may rely on smartphones with smaller screens, for instance, or older operating systems. Internet bandwidth may not be comparable, or the devices themselves don’t perform as quickly as what you’re used to using. You can even design for offline access, and remember to make re-loading or refreshing easy.
It’s important to consider all of this before designing a site that takes a long time to load or doesn’t display properly on a variety of devices.
Be Careful With Forms
If you’re considering having a form on your website, for instance, to capture customer information, it needs to be designed carefully.
After all, not every culture uses “First Name” and “Last Name.” And addresses don’t contain items like zip codes or area codes in every country. Phone numbers can also be displayed quite differently depending on the country.
It will depend on the needs of your business, but it’s best to stick to a universal form that asks for name and email address, for instance. Clear instructions will also help your users.
If you have a target market, you can have the site content translated to that audience’s language.
If it’s not possible for you to translate your content yourself, or you have multiple languages for translation, there are options for plug-ins that can translate your site. Which tool you choose depends on how you do your design, but with some research, you can find the right one.
Make it easy for users with a simple widget that allows them to choose the country, region or language of their choice.
Don’t Forget the Typography
Something like font selection may not seem important, but it is! But rather than focusing on choosing a font that fits with unique customer characteristics, you need to consider how fonts work in different browsers, different devices, and of course different languages. Your selection needs to include alphabets for your target languages.
The same holds true for numbers as part of your design. You may need to convert content to meet local needs, such as using local currencies or other units. You can even include currency exchange, if necessary.
As well, you should consider using the format specific to the audience for content such as dates or phone numbers.
Research Your Keywords
It’s important to understand the differences in terms around the world and know what your target audience uses to describe some of your keywords. You want to be sure people find you when conducting a search.
For instance, what’s known as a designer in one country may be known as a developer in another country, or a programmer or IT expert in yet another country. Be sure you understand your target audiences when you’re creating your content.
Don’t Forget the Domain Name
When choosing the domain, consider your international audience as well. You’ll want to be sure it’s relatively easy and straightforward for a variety of languages and cultures.
You can even use a country code top-level domain, which is used or reserved for countries or territories. An example is www.yourwebsite.de, with “de” referring to Germany. This helps search engine rankings and can attract people from your target country, increasing credibility for your business.
As well, be sure your web hosting solution can handle an increase in traffic. After all, if you’re open for business to the world, you need to be ready for an increase in the volume of traffic to your site.
The Internet has opened the world to businesses of many types. As a design professional, your world has also opened up. Whether you’re creating a design for your own business or a client’s business, the possibility of reaching a global audience is an exciting one.
But whether you know the target audience very well, or you need to research their needs, there are considerations to design for a global audience. Our 11 tips will help set you on the right path to creating an exciting and accessible design for audiences all over the world.
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Callum Mundine is part of the marketing team at oneegg.com.au, a digital marketing agency based in Australia. He is an Amazon marketplace & white hat link building specialist and has launched multiple successful brands on Amazon.com. Callum like his eggs boiled.
Also published on Medium.