International UX and CX Webinar


International UX and CX Webinar Recap

UX design is often kept separate from localization and internationalization efforts. However, this segmented approach can lead to an inconsistent user experience across different international markets. In Vistatec’s International UX and CX webinar, Tarja Karjalainen joins María Jesús de Arriba Díaz to argue for international UX: an integrated design philosophy that connects localization, internationalization, UX design, and copywriting at every stage of the customer journey.

Tarja Karjalainen draws novel insights from her former roles as a localization manager and head of international UX and CX at HappyOrNot. A true trailblazer in global experience, Tarja gained her unique double job title when she recognized the essential interplay between localization, UX, and CX. In this webinar, she shares how other companies can benefit from her synergistic approach to these fields.

Alongside Targja, María Jesús de Arriba Díaz adds her perspective as Director of Strategic Accounts for Vistatec and Board Director for the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA).

Is International UX Really Necessary?

Tarja opens the webinar with a strong defense of international UX, saying that ten years of experience have taught her that localization is a crucial part of UX—not something that can be dealt with later.

In many companies, English permeates the entire design language and process. Often, a business’s programmers, designers, and copywriters are all English speakers, so an English-centric approach comes naturally, whatever their intentions. However, with just 26% of internet users speaking English, prioritizing the language risks alienating 80% of the international market.

International UX targets non-English speakers from day one rather than treating them as an afterthought to be managed by a separate team. Consequently, it is more effective at reaching and retaining clients who either do not speak English or are more comfortable consuming content in another language.

What is International UX?

An international approach to UX and CX acknowledges different cultural realities at every stage of the development process. That means cultivating a cross-functional design process that integrates the traditionally separate disciplines of UX design, localization, and internationalization.

Tarja breaks down these three disciplines as follows:

  • Localization involves translating a brand’s language, copy, and cultural references to suit a different audience. The process must account not only for language differences but also different cultural expectations between markets. Tarja notes that companies often put in an exhaustive effort to craft their tone and standardize their voice across content. Strict word-for-word translations rarely capture the nuances that make up a brand’s image. Localization, by contrast, aims to impart the same brand identity to clients in every market by taking into account different cultural expectations and references. 
  • Internationalization is the technical process that enables localization. At the most basic, this involves implementing Unicode characters to support different alphabets and coding support for different currencies, units, and language formats. There are also more nuanced considerations. For example, not all cultures use the Western naming standard of having a single first and last name. On a technical level, an internationalized website must be able to store names in other formats, such as for clients with multiple surnames.
  • UX Design aims to optimize a user’s experience to make every interaction with a brand intuitive and attractive. Consequently, UX design is multifaceted and touches every stage of the customer’s journey. For a website, it includes such factors as layout, navigation, colors, and fonts.

While internationalization and localization teams often work together due to some overlap in their responsibilities, UX teams tend to work independently. As a result, UX is often optimized for the English language and the English language only. Localization can then become costly and complicated as the interface must change to support other languages. As a basic example, different languages have words of different lengths, with English occupying much less screen space than a language like German. If UX designers do not anticipate this challenge, they may create an interface that becomes cramped in other languages.

Some other examples of how UX interfaces with localization needs include the following:

  • Icons are sometimes culturally specific. An interface that relies too heavily on icons may be challenging to localize if the symbols are not universally understood.
  • Colors have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, red often signifies a warning in Western cultures, while in Asian cultures, it is more closely associated with joy. These distinctions can cause interfaces to be interpreted differently in different countries.
  • Images and landscapes should always be relatable for the user. A person from Finland will be represented by different images than a person from Morocco or Japan. If these assets are central to a design, localization teams will likely need to make substitutions for different markets.
  • Technical optimization is essential when trying to reach markets with lower average internet speeds. Websites that are too asset-heavy may be challenging to access for clients from certain countries.
  • Browsing habits depend on many cultural factors. For instance, Chinese speakers may prefer to browse for information rather than search since typing Chinese characters takes longer than typing English words. It’s critical to keep interfaces accessible to your significant markets. However, they may choose to browse.

Tarja suggests that companies foster collaboration between UX design teams, copywriters, and experts in internationalization and localization to cope with these challenges and prevent costly redesigns. This may mean having four separate teams that work together throughout the design process in more prominent companies. In smaller companies, the localization manager often performs several of these roles by themselves. In that case, they must be proactive in recruiting stakeholders who can help them implement international UX principles throughout the customer journey.

Understanding the International Customer Journey

One international UX strategy that Tarja herself employs is visualizing the global customer journey. This process requires teams to map out every touch-point a client may have with your company, from first hearing about your brand to being an active customer. At each point in the journey, you should know what precisely the lead sees in each market. Using physical print-outs and sticky notes to mark localization efforts may make it easier to see the customer journey as a unified process and visually see localization gaps.

One common but significant gap occurs when all marketing and onboarding content is localized, but support materials are not. If a product is available in a language, support should also be available in that language, or you risk decreased retention. Visualizing the customer journey can help you identify these sorts of discontinuities to help better support international markets.

Making International UX Work For You

Tarja concludes the webinar by encouraging localization managers to get excited about international UX. Her research into UX and CX issues changed her entire view of localization, and she believes that teams can benefit from similarly broadening their understanding.

In response to an audience question, she also explains how to know that the process is working. She recommends comparing the number of leads in global markets before and after implementing international UX, suggesting managers “make friends” with their company’s data analysts. Similar metrics include engagement and satisfaction in key markets, which should increase with better integration of UX and localization.

Vistatec’s Approach to International UX

Vistatec’s World UX approach allows us to standardize the impact and perception of any content across markets. Our comprehensive content services integrate localization, content creation, and UX optimization to ensure our clients are truly globally competitive. To learn how we can support your new or existing international UX efforts, contact our team.

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About Vistatec

We have been helping some of the world’s most iconic brands to optimize their global commercial potential since 1997. Vistatec is one of the world’s leading global content solutions providers. HQ in Dublin, Ireland, with offices in Mountain View, California, USA.