New disciplines are continually being created as the way we do business evolves. Trends pop up. Some only for a moment, others for the long-run. Entire market niches come into being seemingly out of thin air. Although it’s not always easy to know where these trends come from or where they are headed, the truth of the matter is that they burst forth in a flurry into our daily lives, and suddenly everyone is talking about them.
Although UX has become a buzzword fairly recently, it is not quite as new as it might appear. Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, is credited with coining the term ‘user experience’ in 1995 to explain the broad set of activities that his team was engaged in at Apple Computers. Here’s how he describes it:
Don Norman, Cognitive Scientist & User Experience Architect
UX is not the new kid on the block, but its meaning has evolved quite a bit in recent years. Today, 25 years after the coining of the term, we can define UX in a much more straightforward and simple way: UX is what the user experiences when using your app or website.
Companies that have reached the point where they’re aware of the importance of user experience have a competitive advantage. If a company wants their product to be successful, they should understand their users’ needs and the variables required to meet them. There are two critical variables affecting user experience that companies must not overlook,usability and business value. Neglecting the importance of these variables will translate into lost opportunities to convert users into customers, and that will have a very real impact on the company’s bottom line.
The ultimate goal of any piece of software should be to make its users satisfied by giving them a product that does what it is intended to do in a simple way. The better the user experience when using a website or an app, the more likely you will build engagement with your users. After all, if your users do not see the value in your app or have fun using it, they will not use it. They will go use your competitor’s app.
The users’ overall satisfaction with the product will be reflected in their increased loyalty and that will positively impact revenue. There is no place for solutions that don’t provide business value. A great UX design will manage to link user goals with business goals so that both users and the company reap benefits.
Abby Covert, information architect and author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess defines it clearly and directly:
Nowadays, good UX means the difference between being among the trendsetters and market leaders and the rest of the pack. It is no coincidence that Facebook, Apple, Google, and other world-class companies invest heavily in their UX teams. It is also no coincidence that Jeff Bezos invested 100 times more into customer experience than advertising during the first year of Amazon.
You can’t ignore the data: good user experience is good business. Companies that invest in UX see a lower customer acquisition cost, lower support cost, increased customer retention, and increased market share.
One of the main mistakes people make when referring to UX is using the terms UX and UI (user interface) interchangeably. Although the two disciplines complement one another, they are certainly not the same thing.
UX, as we have established, is the user’s overall experience using a product. It involves understanding why you are creating the app to begin with. It is an iterative process whose aim is to give clients a product that meets their needs.
UI, on the other hand, is all about the look and layout of the app or website. It focuses on how each element of the product will appear in its finalized form—the buttons, text, slide bars, images, checkboxes or radio buttons, just to name a few examples. UI focuses on any and all visual interface elements the users interact with.
So far we have focused on explaining what UX is, why it is important, and the difference between UX and UI. But there is a fundamental element that cannot be ignored—the close relationship between UX and localization.
Factors such as localized content being longer than the original text might cause your app to have truncated text, and text truncation will not help deliver a good user experience.
The size and type of the font are also factors that dramatically impact the usability of your app or website. Asian fonts take more space than English and this should be considered when working in the UX Understand/Research phase described above.
Another important factor that you need to consider when you are thinking about UX and international users is how to approach right-to-left (RTL) languages. In RTL language regions, people read and write from right to left. This means that most interface elements should be flipped in order to be displayed correctly, and obviously failing to understand or implement this “mirroring effect” will leave your potential Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew users confused. And that is a problem, since confusion is not a great ally of UX.
The previous examples are just the tip of the iceberg of the different issues that you can encounter if you do not think about localization when working on tasks associated with refining the UX. There are many more factors that you must consider when preparing your app to be launched globally, some of which go far beyond the text.
The colors you choose to use in the design of your app should take into account that different colors have different meanings by country. Uber is a good example of a company thinking about elements such as colors and patterns when designing an app for different international markets. The company has different visual localization requirements for the different countries they operate in. This approach to consider cultural differences as part of the UX process is also hard-wired into the DNA of the company as we can recognize when we read statements from the CEO himself.
Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder at Uber
Another example of the close relationship between UX and localization is offered by the American giant Google. The company is known for its global approach to its products, and continuously shows how we should connect UX and localization.
The Google Fit app that helps us track our fitness activity is a good example of how localization should be included further upstream during the UX Understand / Research phase. The Google UX team understands that in order to create a spectacular user experience it is important to show high local sensitivity. This leads them to even change the icons and references of their app depending on the market they are targeting.
For example, in the USA, baseball is a popular sport. But in markets such as Russia, baseball is practically unknown. Therefore, it is difficult to build engagement and customer satisfaction when users are not familiar with the examples and references used. For that reason, the UX localization approach that Google takes is to use hockey, a tremendously popular sport in Russia as the icon of its application.
This decision helps Google create a good UX as it focuses on understanding and researching what sports are popular in Russia. Google is adapting the UX interface to the needs of their international users, and seeing the spectacular progress and worldwide growth Google has had in recent years would suggest that its strategy of blurring the barriers between UX and content localization is a good one.
To speak to your global users, you need a UX process that goes beyond design. Jeffrey Zeldman, entrepreneur, web designer, and author of the best-seller “Designing with Web Standards,” famously said that, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
Events dedicated to localization, such as the 40th edition of Localization World held in Estoril, are a good way to take the pulse of our industry. While most of the discussions inevitably center around the usual suspects - machine translation or globalization, to name just a couple - every once in a full moon, a hidden, wholly unexpected gem makes an appearance on center stage.
Nimdzi conducted this research project in cooperation with Translated in Argentina (TINA) and the Argentine Association of Language Services (AASL). The goal was to provide an overview of the language service provider (LSP) market in Argentina in 2019.
Every once in a while, people outside of the localization industry join events dedicated to the language business. We've heard them say we're a nice bunch of people, enthusiastic about our jobs. This feeling surrounding our industry was confirmed once again at MESA’s Content Workflow Management forum in London on 26 February.