When designing a User Interface (UI) some make the mistake of treating the localisation process as an afterthought. When preparing an app or website for a global rollout, simply translating the text into the needed languages is no longer enough. Designers are looking towards the field of Anthropology to better understand how their UI needs to reflect the culture of its users. This article will break down the cultural aspects of designing a user interface for an e-commerce website.



The visual identity of your website is one of the first aspects that is discussed in any design meeting, picking the right colour palette is paramount. However, colours can have different meanings in different cultures.

Taking the example of yellow further, you might on first glance wish to use the colour yellow on your website because in some regions yellow is associated with wealth, this could put users off, since the attribution of wealth stems from it being an exclusively royal colour, with your customers being put off by the website coming across as pretentious.

Ultimately, it is not just about understanding the meaning of the colour in question. You must examine the cultural context behind why that colour has that meaning and understand how that could shape the perception of your brand.


There is a heavy emphasis on where information and products sit on a webpage for e-commerce. Often your most important products are placed on the top left-hand side, since you might assume that, that is where most people’s eyes first look on the page. However, this assumption only rings true for certain cultures and language groups.

Many languages across the world read from right to left instead of left to right. Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi are three of the most common languages that read right to left. Meanwhile, Japanese users read vertically adding yet another dimension into how you should layout your shop view.

Understanding how your users are going to view your site is vital to crafting a compelling user journey.


Making your site easy for customers to search for products can be challenging, especially when localising product categories and tags for search features. For instance, you might have a successful confectionery business in the UK selling biscuits and interested in expanding into the US. However, the word biscuit means two very different foods in either culture, so it might be wise to swap out the word biscuit for cracker or cookie when localising for US markets to ensure your product can be found by potential customers.

Even if the language might be the same for both regions, there are still plenty of divergences in word usage and spelling. Some of you reading this article might be able to tell the nationality of the author, simply because of differences in spelling. Even that small detail can mean the difference between customers wondering about typos or recognising a familiarity to their culture on the part of the brand.

Converting Customers

Once your customers are ready to submit their details, understand that not every culture follows the same naming patterns. Not every culture relies on a first name/last name structure, there might be more or less depending on the region. Contact forms can appear restrictive and inadequate if the customer in question has more than two names.

Even details such as how addresses are laid out can be wildly different, a customer from the UK might scratch their head at what a ZIP code is since they would refer to it as a postcode.

Payment methods in different countries can also vary wildly, while in the US card payments and PayPal remain the most popular methods, Russians also make heavy use of e-wallets alongside more traditional methods. Meanwhile, in Japan, payment in cash upon delivery is still commonplace. Also take into consideration how well optimised your mobile commerce is, especially in nations where desktop penetration is not high, but there is easy access to smartphones, such as India and the Philippines. Failure to take these points into consideration can mean greater proportions of customers drop out and turn to competitors since their preferred payment methods are not supported.

Overall, you must take into account that there is no such thing as universally good UX/UI design. Cultures across the world diverge wildly, in a myriad of different ways. Failure to understand the beliefs and habits of your customers will result in losses for your business. Good UX always creates an environment which knows the needs of its users and creates the best path towards the intended goal of the business.

If you are looking for your next User interface design role, send us your CV. If you are an employer looking to expand their design capabilities, get in touch with us to find out more.

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