Design across cultures (Was Re: Offshoring)

18 Jan 2005 - 4:28pm
9 years ago
1 reply
522 reads
jarango
2004

Gerard wrote:

> It is difficult to
> design across cultures: just as I would have trouble understanding how
> to design for a client in Bangalore (unless I could spend time there,
> with my customer and their customers), so it would be difficult for a
> designer in Bangalore to do a remote design for a site in Canada.

This is a fascinating topic. We are currently doing research on
globalization and IA, and one of the models we're looking into has a
centralized IA team in an organization deciding preferred solutions
for different locales. Does anyone on the list have war stories
(positive or negative) of centralized design teams deciding how things
will look / behave in different cultures? What are the main
challenges? (We're looking at structural, political/corporate, and
info design issues.)

Thanks,

--
Jorge Arango
http://www.jarango.com

Comments

18 Jan 2005 - 5:59pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

JA> Does anyone on the list have war stories
JA> (positive or negative) of centralized design teams deciding how things
JA> will look / behave in different cultures? What are the main
JA> challenges? (We're looking at structural, political/corporate, and
JA> info design issues.)

Jorge,

I have memoirs on that...

There are three basic approaches on how one can do design/usability
across cultures: centralised, offshore, and cooperative. As usual,
each has its own advantages and drawbacks (surprise, surprise).

Centalised approach works best when the cultures/countries you design
for have similar cultural profiles. [This is not about language
standards and 'internationalisation' in its classic sense, it is one
level deeper, the matter of perception, mapping, and practices in
different cultures. Ultimately, this is what defines the
coarse-grained level of your conceptual design.]

Things to consider:
1. What are the product concept and message? Is making the product
feel slightly foreign for your customer considered an advantage or
a disadvantage? (It can be either way).

2. Is the product itself rather culture-neutral, or does it have
intrinsic local specifics?
For example, local intranet sites of a single multinational company
will be in general more similar than local sites of a single retail chain.
(Corporate rules may be more homogenous between two countries than
retail rules and consumer behaviours).

If the answer to #1 is "foreign feel is good" or the answer to #2 is
"the product is rather culture-neutral", centralised design will work
ok, providing low-level internationalisation matters are taken care of.
If the answers are different (even worse, if cultural profiles are
largely different on top of that) you may find yourself in trouble with
the outcomes of the centralised approach.

Give more details of a particular project, if you can.

Reading:
1. Gerard Torenvliet has written a fairly positive review in the last
issue of Interaction (ACM SIGCHI magazine) on "Usability and
Internationalization in Information Technology" by Nuray Aykin.

2. A good general read on cultural profiles and cultural dimensions is
"Culture and Organizations: The software of the mind" by Geert
Hofstede.

Lada

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