Culture is an important aspect of web design ideas that is often overlooked. However, designing a website with culture and language differences in mind can greatly improve its potential.
There are currently well over one billion internet users worldwide, but only about 495 million of those users are English speakers. This means that you may not be accessible to three thirds of your potential audience.
While you may argue that most people speak English even if it isn’t their first language, a recent study by Common Sense Advisory found that 85% of people who shop online will only make purchases from websites that are available in their native language.
Aside from this, certain layouts, designs or even content may not appeal to people from different cultures, which means that translating your website alone may not be enough to win over those three thirds of internet users that are currently using other services.
The first step to figuring out what changes you should make to your website’s design is to find out where your visitors are coming from. Of course, you could simply opt to translate your website into some of the most important world languages, such as French, Italian, Spanish and German.
But by using a simple service like Google Analytics, which shows you your website’s stats, you can optimize it to meet your user’s needs.
For example, you may see that you are getting a steady stream of visitors from Brazil, and that most of these visitors are using smartphones to access the web. You will then know that you should translate your content into Portuguese, and also ensure that your website is properly set up for mobile use.
But aside from the language, you could find out how to make your website more appealing to people living in Brazil by featuring products that would be more suited to people from that country or using imagery that is easier for them to relate to.
Major companies like Coca-Cola and McDonalds already use this approach, and tailor their websites to the preferences and norms in each specific country. For example, on the Hong Kong website, McDonald’s features shrimp sandwiches, while the Indian one displays a spicy tikka burger.
Here are a few additional things to keep in mind when customizing your website’s design:
Keep it simple
A website designed for a single language is typically pretty easy to navigate, but when you change to multiple languages, layouts and designs, it can quickly get confusing.
Before you can change a website into a global one, a few important changes to the design will need to be made. By using a tool like CSS (Cascading Style sheets), you can maintain the same basic template for your website as a whole, but make smaller changes to content and style for different users and countries.
Your website must also be easy to navigate for people from all over the world, so keep it straight forward and ensure that it is simple enough to flick from one language to another and return to the homepage or view the site map.
While you may not have given much thought to the primary colors you chose for your website, when designing for different cultures colors are actually rather important. In many countries, colors do not have the same meanings as they do in western culture. For example, you are probably familiar with the color red being used to symbolize love or danger, but in China, the same color is used in celebrations and as a symbol of good luck.
Yellow is often used to symbolize summer, new life and vibrancy in western culture, whereas in Mexico it is a color of mourning. Generally speaking, blue tones are neutral in most cultures and are probably the safest bet if you are looking to go global.
Of course, it would simply not be possible to accommodate every different culture in your color scheme, but it is helpful to be aware of some of the major differences, especially when it comes to bold colors like red, orange or yellow.
Take your cues from the big names
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in market research and web-design, you can learn a lot by researching what the bigger companies are doing. Check out global websites like Apple or Coca-Cola and take note of some of the major differences between their country-specific websites.
You may notice that they are using certain color schemes for certain countries, or maybe the types of images they use and the specific products they feature are quite different from country to country.
You can be fairly sure that these companies have done thorough market research and didn’t just pick their designs at random, so don’t be afraid to implement a few of their design ideas (without blatantly plagiarizing of course).