Ever wondered how other cultures use technology, and solve the same problems you have? Well international research doesn’t have to be so expensive and can happen at your desk. Different cultures have the same problems and their approaches can be new and refreshing. Proven trends of big brands from overseas are ideal for keeping your clients ahead of the game.
So here are a few tips on how to travel the world’s technology in just a few clicks.
Googling in languages you’re fluent in is a great way to find new websites. Yet if you don’t know the language of the culture you’re investigating, it gets trickier. Imagine you’re doing a competitor analysis for a retail website, and you want to explore Egyptian retail. Here are a few steps in how to kick off international research.
Question: What retail brands are there in Egypt?
Google: ‘Clothing brands in Egypt’
Now if you’re using your usual Google, the problem comes in with personalised results. This is not something obvious at first, because you’re used to it, but you’ll rarely see results in a different language than your own, or something that Google doesn’t class as relevant to you.
Question: If Google is too personalised, what else can I use?
DuckDuckGo pride themselves on not tracking you, or personalising your results.
So after scrapping Google for results outside of our search bubbles, the results still aren’t that great. We don’t even have one result in Arabic!
Question: Where can I find a list of retailers?
Results at this point can be pretty frustrating, given you’ve changed your search query umpteenth times to get a decent result. Clothing brands in Egypt. Egyptian fashion. Clothes shops in Egypt. etc. They all bring back similar results.
So now think of things you can look up in your mother tongue which would give you similar results. Where are there lots of different brands all in the same place?
Search: shopping centres/malls in Egypt
Bam! Top result on DuckDuckGo was a list of shopping centres. I went for one that sounded like it would be a big mall, and then hit the link.
Jackpot! Lists of retail websites to go explore.
Looking at international brands you’re familiar with, is a good way to spot differences between designs. If they have localised versions of their websites, compare each version. Do they have more or less options, how different is the tone or imagery? This blog post shows great examples of how McDonald’s localise their website, and what changes to look out for.
Don’t forget to pay attention to just what languages websites are in. It’s easy to overlook international brands that we’re unfamiliar with. For example, take the first brand Tekbir. Their website turned out to be in Turkish, which is still not Egyptian.
There is a lot of trial and error in international research. Finding a website in a different language, then one in the language you actually want, and then a site which has great UX, in the language you want. It all takes time. Which takes us to the next tip!
If you’re struggling to find results with DuckDuckGo and your Google, try a ‘local’ Google. Instead of Google.com or Google.co.uk, try google.com.eg and see if it returns better results.
Besides searching in English on different Google engines, also translate terms to search with. Just remember that you need to search and use sites in their native language. Translate the site by using the browser if need be. This way you’re able to understand labels and navigate around, but you’re seeing the localised design.
The first tip is great to get your own feel on what is out there. Not just for any particular culture, but for inspiration in general. The downside is that while you can come across anything, it’s time consuming.
If you’re on a tight deadline, it’s time to go bug people! If you’re interested in all things UX, design and research you need to be a part of the Designer Hangout. Designer Hangout is an online community of almost 8000 UX-ers, across the globe. There are people from every timezone on there. People who know their local brands, and the brands with design worth mentioning.
Social media is also a great platform. Bug people on Twitter, get involved in online discussions like UXDiscuss and #UXChat. Reach out to people who know the online scene for their culture.
In big cities as well there are also meetups which celebrate their own culture. For example, in London there are UX meetups in different languages like Czech. Even if you don’t understand the meetup, contacting them online is a great start.
International research is becoming more crucial to tech every day. The world is becoming more connected. In doing so the demands for internationalised products has increased tenfold. But besides that, international research is inspiring. It’s clear cultures share the same tech struggles. But research allows us to explore the cultural problems that our country is yet to even face.
In China, they have a whole new breed of mobile apps, called Light Apps! Their take on mobile is completely different to the UK.
Retail sites in the Middle East focuses more on products, rather than shopping. So their retail websites often feature a ‘lookbook’ with a store finder.
In India, we have the rare opportunity at the moment to see how payments are evolving offline, with demonetisation. We can then see how this affects online payment options and how UX-ers tackle the challenges.
Now we have the what, and the how. The next challenge is then to discover the why. Any international research is great, but it can never replace a good conversation. So get out there and get bugging people!
Got a tip on how you do research - international or just how to research what you don’t know? Ping me on Twitter, or contact me!
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