thumbs up gesture

23 Jun 2006 - 1:03am
8 years ago
15 replies
1240 reads
jstanford
2003

Hello,

I am having an interesting discussion with a client about using a thumbs
up/thumbs down icon in an interface to indicate like/dislike for something.

The web service will mostly be used in the US, but could eventually become
global so he'd like to think globally. He pointed me to an interesting
article about the thumbs up gesture which strongly suggests that we abandon
it.
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_n12_v17/ai_18938015

However, given that for the early adopter phase of this product there will
not really be wide usage outside of the US (or even outside of Silicon
Valley for that matter), my thinking is that I am not as concerned right now
about internationalization because there are so many other issues with this
interface.

So, a few questions for the global audience on this list:

1) Am I totally wrong? Should I be really concerned that thumbs up/down is
offensive?

2) What are alternatives to thumbs up/down for expressing that you
like/dislike something? Unfortunately, it is not going to work to rate
something on a scale of 1-X or whatever. We really need just a like/don't
like quick symbol. Also note that a star isn't going to work for various
reasons.
They suggested just and up/down arrow but that implies movement to me.

Thoughts?

julie

_____________________________________
Julie Stanford
Principal, Sliced Bread Design | www.slicedbreaddesign.com
<http://www.slicedbreaddesign.com/>
650-799-7225

Comments

23 Jun 2006 - 2:04am
Baldo
2005

In Italy (and Europe too) thumb up / thumb down is quite clear.
Just seen yesterday a nice "evaluation system" inside google sitemaps system:

here 2 images:
http://tinyurl.com/pzmhv

> I am having an interesting discussion with a client about using a thumbs
> up/thumbs down icon in an interface to indicate like/dislike for something.

23 Jun 2006 - 1:29am
Maral Haar
2006

Hi Julie,

I would recommend "smileys", becuase they are definitely cross
cultural. The only reason you might not want to do that would be that
they are too "cartoonish" or childish. But face recognition and
emotional expressions are highly cultural iindependent. (In the end we
are still all the same species).

Kind regards,

Maral

On 6/23/06, Julie Stanford <julie at slicedbreaddesign.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Hello,
>
> I am having an interesting discussion with a client about using a thumbs
> up/thumbs down icon in an interface to indicate like/dislike for something.
>
> The web service will mostly be used in the US, but could eventually become
> global so he'd like to think globally. He pointed me to an interesting
> article about the thumbs up gesture which strongly suggests that we abandon
> it.
> http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_n12_v17/ai_18938015
>
> However, given that for the early adopter phase of this product there will
> not really be wide usage outside of the US (or even outside of Silicon
> Valley for that matter), my thinking is that I am not as concerned right now
> about internationalization because there are so many other issues with this
> interface.
>
> So, a few questions for the global audience on this list:
>
> 1) Am I totally wrong? Should I be really concerned that thumbs up/down is
> offensive?
>
> 2) What are alternatives to thumbs up/down for expressing that you
> like/dislike something? Unfortunately, it is not going to work to rate
> something on a scale of 1-X or whatever. We really need just a like/don't
> like quick symbol. Also note that a star isn't going to work for various
> reasons.
> They suggested just and up/down arrow but that implies movement to me.
>
>
> Thoughts?
>
> julie
>
>
>
> _____________________________________
> Julie Stanford
> Principal, Sliced Bread Design | www.slicedbreaddesign.com
> <http://www.slicedbreaddesign.com/>
> 650-799-7225
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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>

23 Jun 2006 - 6:06am
Peter Bagnall
2003

Would a tick or cross work? I don't know how cross-cultural that is
either but I guess it's probably better than a hand gesture. Does a
tick not work for anyone?

--Pete

On 23 Jun 2006, at 07:03, Julie Stanford wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Hello,
>
> I am having an interesting discussion with a client about using a
> thumbs
> up/thumbs down icon in an interface to indicate like/dislike for
> something.
>
> The web service will mostly be used in the US, but could eventually
> become
> global so he'd like to think globally. He pointed me to an interesting
> article about the thumbs up gesture which strongly suggests that we
> abandon
> it.
> http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_n12_v17/ai_18938015
>
> However, given that for the early adopter phase of this product
> there will
> not really be wide usage outside of the US (or even outside of Silicon
> Valley for that matter), my thinking is that I am not as concerned
> right now
> about internationalization because there are so many other issues
> with this
> interface.
>
> So, a few questions for the global audience on this list:
>
> 1) Am I totally wrong? Should I be really concerned that thumbs up/
> down is
> offensive?
>
> 2) What are alternatives to thumbs up/down for expressing that you
> like/dislike something? Unfortunately, it is not going to work to
> rate
> something on a scale of 1-X or whatever. We really need just a like/
> don't
> like quick symbol. Also note that a star isn't going to work for
> various
> reasons.
> They suggested just and up/down arrow but that implies movement to me.
>
>
> Thoughts?
>
> julie
>
>
>
> _____________________________________
> Julie Stanford
> Principal, Sliced Bread Design | www.slicedbreaddesign.com
> <http://www.slicedbreaddesign.com/>
> 650-799-7225
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

----------------------------------------------------------
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.
- Marshall McLuhan, 1911 - 1980

Peter Bagnall - http://people.surfaceeffect.com/pete/

23 Jun 2006 - 7:38am
Todd Warfel
2003

Smiley face and frown...

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Partner, Design & Usability Specialist
Messagefirst | designing and usability consulting
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (607) 339-9640
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

On Jun 23, 2006, at 2:03 AM, Julie Stanford wrote:

> 2) What are alternatives to thumbs up/down for expressing that you
> like/dislike something?

23 Jun 2006 - 7:52am
Todd Warfel
2003

From the article...

"All very interesting, I hear you cry, but what's there to study
about the thumbs-up gesture? Regardless of its origin, doesn't
everyone understand the gesture to mean "okay"? Yes, said 738 of the
1,200 Europeans surveyed by Morris and colleagues in a landmark
study. But 40 respondents said the thumb aimed heavenward indicated
the number 1, another 36 considered it a sexual insult (up, you
should pardon the expression, yours), and the rest mentioned
hitchhiking..."

Context is everything. First, 40 out of 1200 Europeans is
statistically insignificant. Second, the article doesn't state "how"
they researched the gestures. From what I can gather, these 40 were
showed the gesture and asked what the person thought it meant. There
is another part of the article refers to the thumbs up gesture as
basically giving someone the bird. When participants were asked about
thumbs up verbally, they thought the person was referring to what we
call "the bird." Which is where I would expect that 36 above
considering it a sexual insult come in. Again, out of context and
statistically insignificant. However, in the context of a rating
system, it's an obvious and non-offending "positive" or "negative".
In fact, if you continue reading the article (page 2)...

"Like Morris, Sherzer believes that the thumbs-up gesture (which he
abbreviates as TUG in the interest of saving trees) predated
gladiators, Roman or American. "The dichotomy of up meaning
`positive' and down meaning `negative' pervades the language and
gesture systems of Europe," he explains. "The thumbs-up gesture
probably originates from this contrast.""

If you really read the article through and consider the context of
what you're intending to use it for, you should be fine, even
internationally.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Partner, Design & Usability Specialist
Messagefirst | designing and usability consulting
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (607) 339-9640
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

23 Jun 2006 - 8:08am
Cecily Walker
2006

Smiley face or frown, or check and cross.

23 Jun 2006 - 10:37am
Anjali Arora, NYU
2004

On Jun 23, 2006, at 2:03 AM, Julie Stanford wrote:

>
> 1) Am I totally wrong? Should I be really concerned that thumbs up/
> down is
> offensive?

If you are looking to an international audience, I believe the thumbs
up/ down will be perceived differently.
In India, a thumbs up is used in everyday real-world contexts to mean
'You're not getting that from me' or a 'You lose, I win' kind of
thing, it's sort of a teasing gesture. A regular user of the internet
in India, or one who has traveled extensively will understand that it
is being used here in a different sense, but for the rest, it is
likely to cause confusion.
>
> 2) What are alternatives to thumbs up/down for expressing that you
> like/dislike something? Unfortunately, it is not going to work to
> rate
> something on a scale of 1-X or whatever. We really need just a like/
> don't
> like quick symbol. Also note that a star isn't going to work for
> various
> reasons.
> They suggested just and up/down arrow but that implies movement to me.
>
>
I'd go with a checkmark-cross combo, but I'd also test it out with
the potential audience.

-Anjali
www.artbrush.net
> Thoughts?
>
> julie
>
>
>

23 Jun 2006 - 1:53pm
Vassili Bykov
2005

Anjali Arora wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>
> On Jun 23, 2006, at 2:03 AM, Julie Stanford wrote:
>
>> 1) Am I totally wrong? Should I be really concerned that thumbs up/
>> down is
>> offensive?
>
> If you are looking to an international audience, I believe the thumbs
> up/ down will be perceived differently.

Indeed. Quoting Wikipedia "Gesture" article:

"'Thumbs up' traditionally translates as the foulest of Middle-Eastern
gesticular insults — the most straightforward interpretation is 'Up
yours, pal!' The sign has a similarly pejorative meaning in parts of
West Africa, South America, Russia, Iran, Greece, and Sardinia,
according to Roger E. Axtell's book Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of
Body Language Around the World."

23 Jun 2006 - 2:07pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

At 11:37 AM 6/23/2006, Anjali Arora wrote:
>If you are looking to an international audience, I believe the thumbs up/
>down will be perceived differently.

Someone once told me every gesture you can do with a body part that is
offensive *somewhere* on the planet.

I'd like to see the study that proves/disproves that. :)

Jared

Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
978 327-5561 jspool at uie.com http://www.uie.com
Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks

23 Jun 2006 - 2:26pm
Anjali Arora, NYU
2004

Agreed, wholeheartedly :)

But what one has got to decide is whether you care for that audience
or not, & design accordingly. So it's back to the ever-crucial
question: who are my users?
-Anjali

On Jun 23, 2006, at 3:07 PM, Jared M. Spool wrote:

> At 11:37 AM 6/23/2006, Anjali Arora wrote:
>> If you are looking to an international audience, I believe the
>> thumbs up/ down will be perceived differently.
>
> Someone once told me every gesture you can do with a body part that
> is offensive *somewhere* on the planet.
>
> I'd like to see the study that proves/disproves that. :)
>
> Jared
>
>
> Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
> 510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
> 978 327-5561 jspool at uie.com http://www.uie.com
> Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks
>

23 Jun 2006 - 4:04pm
Christopher Fahey
2005

> Context is everything. First, 40 out of 1200 Europeans is
> statistically insignificant.

I agree with Todd, but would go even further. Frankly, the article, while
fascinating historically, is alarmist to the point of near-absurdity. 40 out
of 1200 people will say that up is down, that white is black, or that a
smiley face is a tub of margarine.

We have to use some common sense here. We shouldn't be suggesting
alternatives/solutions (smiley faces or checkboxes) to our peers when the
problem itself might not even actually exist.

It's likely that the thumbs-up or thumbs-down does, in fact, mean something
truly awful somewhere in the world (in fact, it does:
http://www.slate.com/id/2080812/). The original article link, however,
doesn't make that case at all. Use Google to learn more (here's more:
http://www.shockingelk.com/text/thumbs_up/) and then make the call based on
(a) how likely you are to market in these places, and (b) how likely you are
to market to people in those places whose familiarity with American idioms
and American media is pretty low. If the audience has, for example, seen
some American movies, software, or media, I would imagine it would be pretty
safe.

As Anjali wrote: "A regular user of the internet in India, or one who has
traveled extensively will understand that it is being used here in a
different sense, but for the rest, it is likely to cause confusion." Are you
trying to reach "regular users of the internet", or "the rest"?

Also, think about the balance between, say, making a crystal clear and
elegant user interface for 99% of your users versus alienating 1%. Think
about how much revenue you might generate in the USA and Europe versus, say,
India, Nigeria, and Iraq.

Here's an unlikely but probably reliable resource for judging if the gesture
is acceptable in several represented countries:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/itug/pool/

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

23 Jun 2006 - 5:54pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

CF> If the audience has, for example, seen some American movies,
CF> software, or media, I would imagine it would be pretty safe.

It might be 'pretty safe', but will it be 'welcoming'?

In cross-cultural encounters, you want to be understood -- as a bare
minimum. This, however, is not enough to build a relationship. You
need to be liked, and your customer wants to be appreciated. In
today's world, the less American you come across to your international
customer, the better for you. Sorry to say, but the days of blind
admiration of all American are long over. Speak to locals in something
other than English, and you'll get it quickly in very different
corners of the world.

In more than a decade in cross-cultural research, I rarely saw it
differently. It's often all right on the surface; scratch it, and
you'll be surprised. A study we did recently for a major multinational
investigated differences in user satisfaction with their new Portal
for business partners worldwide. The US users loved the new site, the
Europeans were pretty cold about it. The US-based client deeply
believed in language deficiencies being the major reason (not all
parts of the site were available in local languages). We used UK users
as a control language group. Guess the results... The British were as
far from the Americans in their scores as the Germans and Italians
were. Across Europe, the users were unhappy with the site being "too
Americanised", from spelling and writing style to the content itself.
They used it, because they had to and because a lot of the content was
useful -- but they didn't relate to it. To quote a British
interviewee, "They are saying it’s a global site, but it’s not -- it
is American-regional."

When we presented the results, we faced denial: "The Europeans simply
don't get it!" (quote). We talked, we went through the data, we
checked the study methodology. We parted with my client believing I
got it wrong, too. No wonder; I am proudly European, after all :-)

CF> Think about how much revenue you might generate in the USA and
CF> Europe versus, say, India, Nigeria, and Iraq.

The US market is Internet-saturated and very competitive; the
developing markets are growing at a huge rate. The world will speak
Chinese in 20 years. Learn it then to survive, learn it now to thrive.

To the point of thumbs and checks (aka 'ticks' outside the US).
Facial expressions are indeed the most universally recognised icons.
Crosses may let you down; they are frequently used for positive 'box
checking' in many countries.

Lada

23 Jun 2006 - 6:21pm
Luke Ball
2006

Terrific thread.

On Jun 23, 2006, at 3:54 PM, Lada Gorlenko wrote:
> To the point of thumbs and checks (aka 'ticks' outside the US).
> Facial expressions are indeed the most universally recognised icons.
> Crosses may let you down; they are frequently used for positive 'box
> checking' in many countries.
>

I assumed "crosses and ticks" referred to plus and minus symbols

+/-

any problem with these internationally?

Luke Ball

24 Jun 2006 - 12:41am
Tori Egherman
2005

In cross-cultural encounters, you want to be understood -- as a bare
minimum. This, however, is not enough to build a relationship. You
need to be liked, and your customer wants to be appreciated. In
today's world, the less American you come across to your international
customer, the better for you. Sorry to say, but the days of blind
admiration of all American are long over. Speak to locals in something
other than English, and you'll get it quickly in very different
corners of the world.

In more than a decade in cross-cultural research, I rarely saw it
differently. It's often all right on the surface; scratch it, and
you'll be surprised. A study we did recently for a major multinational
investigated differences in user satisfaction with their new Portal
for business partners worldwide. The US users loved the new site, the
Europeans were pretty cold about it. The US-based client deeply
believed in language deficiencies being the major reason (not all
parts of the site were available in local languages). We used UK users
as a control language group. Guess the results... The British were as
far from the Americans in their scores as the Germans and Italians
were. Across Europe, the users were unhappy with the site being "too
Americanised", from spelling and writing style to the content itself.
They used it, because they had to and because a lot of the content was
useful -- but they didn't relate to it. To quote a British
interviewee, "They are saying it's a global site, but it's not -- it
is American-regional."

>Aren't you just making the point that has been made by several
emailers: that there is no global way to communicate? Why worry about
small gestures like thumbs up or thumbs down when we should worry
about why we want to make everything so bland that it does not mean
much to anyone? (BTW, I no longer use the thumbs up gesture after
living in Iran for several years)

Anyone who has head to modify their gestures, language, and manners
knows that you cannot communicate globally. Isn't the beauty of the
computer that we can modify some things: make them more local, more
comprehensible? Why should we try to find a global answer when a local
one may be more effective?

Tori

26 Jun 2006 - 8:23am
Christopher Fahey
2005

Tori Egherman wrote:
> Isn't the beauty of the computer that we can
> modify some things: make them more local, more
> comprehensible?

That's great advice. I'd rather design a good localized solution for each
different audiences than a bland one for all.

Lada Gorlenko wrote:
> The US market is Internet-saturated and very
> competitive; the developing markets are growing
> at a huge rate.

This is true, but designing the UI for a web app to be useful in the global
market 20 years from now, or even 10, seems to me to be a poor investment of
design time and money. To go back to Tori's point, the beauty of this
business is that we can make changes to adapt to the market, and we can make
the changes quickly. Multi-cultural compatibility is great, but it's not
always a business necessity.

Designing a UI that is sub-optimal for your largest market just so that it
is okay for other smaller or potential markets just isn't good business.
Design for your currently likely market, and make your UI excellent for that
audience. When it becomes worthwhile to design for new markets, consider a
localized redesign for them, too.

Lada, your story of the international portal being too-American -- what do
you think was the appropriate the solution to the problem? To define a
vocabulary that worked across all languages without seeming American? Would
that then alienate the American market? Would the cost of such an effort be
worth the attitude change among the European respondants?

> To the point of thumbs and checks (aka 'ticks'
> outside the US). Facial expressions are indeed
> the most universally recognised icons.

A UI button with a smily face on it is indeed universally recognized --
recognized, that is, to mean "insert a smily emoticon" :-)

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

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