These UI Design Principles Will Make Your App a Global Hit

April 8, 2020

Mobile app design can be a mountain of a challenge. Certain basics should definitely be considered: keeping your users in control, catering to a simple and fluid user flow, or providing visual clues. However, designing an app that should transcend national and cultural borders is an endeavor that takes far more effort. Make it a global success with these core UI design principles!

Let Your Users Choose Languages

Here comes the first question: should your mobile app/website have a default language setting? There are tons of apps out there that determine languages based on the user’s IP address or system setting (often represented by national flags). While this practice may be common and the flags beautiful, it is often not the best solution.

The downside is that it overlooks countries with more languages in use. For example, there are 22 official languages in India. In a quickly diversifying world, it is important that your app reflects the needs of as many people as possible.

Therefore, it is recommended that you always have a “gateway” to your app or website’s main page that allows your users to pick the language. In other words, the first time a user logs in or opens the app, he/she should be the one who determines in what language the content is shown. Also, the user should be free to change languages at any time.

Moreover, to represent languages, use locale names instead of national flags. For example, if your website is for Spanish speakers in the United States, you can mark it as Español (Estados Unidos).

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Mary Grant
Mary Alice Grant

Learn Your Target Market’s Cultural Patterns

If I give you 01/11/20, you probably know it is a date. But what date is it specifically? Is it November 1 or January 11, 2020? While you may be familiar with the DD/MM/YY date format, it may differ across regions and countries. And sometimes, if you just put dd/MM/YY your potential users won’t even understand what it means.

Cultural patterns are what make each market distinct. Do some research on your target market’s cultural patterns before actually diving into it. For example, is the symbol you use culturally relevant? Are there any cultural taboos you want to avoid? Answering these questions will eventually boost trust in your product or service.

Maintain a Consistent Brand Image

While you need to beware of the cultural differences across regions where you sell your products or service, also be sure to keep a consistent global brand image.

To do this, you may either choose to use a layout template (there are already tons of them), or create your own customized version that is specifically configured to meet your internationalization needs. Overall, each language variant of your website or mobile app should have the same flavor when it comes to your brand image and delivers similar user experiences. Once you have a consistent template for UI design, expenses on things like adding new features (like buttons) and new languages would drop significantly.

Avoid Using Embedded Texts

Has your team already designed a few fancy fliers or images? Sure, they must be so good looking and are probably on your ads for a few days. It is natural – and right – to reuse them in your newly launched multilingual website or mobile app. But before you tell your team to “just upload them to our website”, maybe you want to make sure that any texts are not directly burnt into the images. You probably need to have someone internationalize the images and fliers first by extracting the text into a separate layer. This way, you will be able to upload these texts into a translation management system for translation. In other words, apart from the regular content, your favorite images and fliers will be multilingual as well.

Plan on Enough Space for Longer Texts

Before you import your HTML data for translation, you should know that the resulting translation would seldom have exactly the same length as your source content. If you translate from English into languages like Russian or Ukrainian, it is likely that your resulting text would expand by at least 30%. Conversely, if your target language is Chinese or Japanese, the content may shrink by about 10% to 15%, which may make your UI aesthetically undesirable.

Therefore, should you have a “fixed” UI structure that does not change with the size of your content, your text boxes, buttons, and other fields would just not be able to fit. Fixing them manually one by one would then cost you a significant amount of money that would otherwise be saved.

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