How to Design a Mobile App User Interface That Appeals to Everyone


How to Design a Mobile App User Interface That Appeals to Everyone

January 5, 2022

Note: This blog is the 1st installment of a 3-part UI/UX design series. Click here to view the other posts.

Every individual differs in thought processes and how they perceive the world around them. How you communicate with one group might be completely different. The challenge with user interface (UI) & user experience (UX) design is building an app that addresses the unique needs of each culture. 

Successful cross-cultural design results in user experiences that transcend the geographical, language, and social beliefs of all users. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of cross-cultural design. We will also offer helpful tips to ensure you build a culturally inclusive UI. 

What Do You Think About When Designing For Different Cultures?

Many tend to think that culture refers to geographical location. However, if we limit our thinking to just that, we miss out on the value and beauty of each society. Culture is much more than location. It encompasses a multitude of characteristics that make each unique.

Culture is the beliefs, social norms, social habits, values, and traditions of a group of people. It is the basis for how people act, think, and believe. It determines acceptable behavior and expectations for the group.

How Culture Influences UI & UX Design

Social psychologist Geert Hofstede is famously known for his research on cultural differences. His research identified a cultural model comprised of six dimensions. This model explains the general cultural differences across societies. It’s an invaluable reference to cross-cultural UI & UX design.

1. Power Distance

Power distance reflects the acceptance of social hierarchies. That is to say, the group understands that power is distributed unequally. Societies with high power distance believe everyone has a place in the hierarchy. In societies with low power distribution, that power is to be distributed equally. 

2. Uncertainty Avoidance (UA)

UA refers to how well a group tolerates uncertainty and ambiguity. In societies with high UA, the group copes with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty in unknown and unusual circumstances. Those in a low UA society are more comfortable in uncertain or unstructured situations. Their goal is to minimize rules. As such, low UA societies are more tolerant of change.

3. Masculinity vs. Femininity

A more appropriate way to look at these societies is task orientation vs. person orientation. Males in these societies are task-oriented and value competitiveness, success, and power. In feminine-oriented societies, the value is placed on relationships, quality of life, and empathy. Masculine cultures typically have strong opinions on gender roles. Groups with low masculinity tolerate the overlap in social gender roles. 

4. Individualism vs. Collectivism

Individualist societies place importance on personal achievement. They tend to prioritize personal needs and those of their immediate family above all else. Those societies that are collective, on the other hand, value relations and loyalty. Collective societies have a more direct communication style, while individualistic societies are less direct in its communication.

5. Long-Term Orientation (LT) vs. Short-Term Orientation (ST)

LT vs. ST refers to a society’s value on delaying gratification in the long-term vs. the short-term. Gratification needs in these societies are material, social and emotional needs. LT societies value delaying gratification. Their focus is to achieve reward through hard work over an extended time, for example, persistence, thrift, and saving. ST societies relate to the past and present. They tend to lack future focus and instead value immediate needs and quick results. 

6. Indulgence

Indulgence is about the good things in life. According to Hofstede, “in an indulgent culture, it is good to be free. Doing what your impulses want you to do is good. Friends are important and life makes sense. In a restrained culture, the feeling is that life is hard, and duty, not freedom, is the normal state of being.”

How To Design With Cultural Variation In Mind

The goal of cross-cultural UI & UX design is to invoke the values of each society. The initial step to approaching cultural variation is to combat your biases. It helps prevent your thoughts and opinions from influencing the design. Assume you know nothing about a culture. Open yourself to learning as much as possible. 

Tips For Creating a UI & UX Design That Appeals To Everyone

All your App Store Optimization and app awareness efforts will miss the mark if it does not provide a user interface that appeals to a diverse user base. The fallout could be disastrous and lead to negative reviews. Here are a few essential components to keep in mind when navigating cultural differences in your mobile app UI design: 

* Localization

Each culture has nuances and variations in language. Localize each version of the app with this in mind. It should use the appropriate language, slang, or customary language specific to the culture.

* Reading Direction

Your design should consider that writing styles vary across cultures. Western cultures tend to read from left-to-right, however other cultures such as those in the Middle East read right to left. Further, some cultures read from top-to-bottom.

* Color

Your colors should account for what is appropriate across cultures. For example, in western cultures, green symbolizes monetary growth. However, in China, red symbolizes good fortune.

* Test

In the book Universal UX Design, Alberto Ferreira says, “Designing for mass localization on a digital platform on a scale is a fruitless endeavor unless it is correlated with quantitative data.” The only way to obtain this data is through extensive user experience testing.

Positive app store ratings and reviews are a natural byproduct of an enjoyable user experience, which is why culturally aware UI & UX design is critical to the long-term success (and profitability) of any mobile application.

Interested in learning more about Mobile App Strategy & Best Practices? Check out these posts: