One of our current research projects is investigating the impact of Cultural Differences on design. This spans our entire process, but a particular area of interest for me is how we approach UX research and design, and how supporting Cultural Differences may alter the approach, tools and research that we adopt.

Below are some of my key learnings from working on Cross-Cultural services.

Identify and understand your target users

In any UX stream of work, identifying and understanding your users is critical. When dealing with multiple cultures, it’s essential that you really do spend time on understanding the needs, expectations and behaviours of all cultures you’re designing for.

One of the challenges here is the geographic dispersion of the cultures. For example, we’re currently working with Lime whose customer base spans across 13 Caribbean islands. While I would love to spend a couple of months island-hopping in the Caribbean conducting research across all these islands, from a time and cost perspective this just isn’t feasible.

The challenge of prioritise your research efforts

This situation isn’t uncommon for UX folk when dealing with multiple cultures and research activities need to be prioritised. In the Caribbean example above, we worked with business and marketing stakeholders within Lime to identify key Islands that we should focus our initial Discovery research. This was based on Limes’ understanding of their customer base and previous research they had conducted, and in selecting islands that it was felt were representative of the wider customer base. In the end we were able to focus our user requirements gathering effort on 3 islands, but ensuring that ongoing UX research would incorporate a wider range of islands too.

Immerse in as many of these different cultures as possible

You really only can get a real feel for the Culture if you’re there! Ethnographic research allows you to observe users in the context of their environment, and captures insight that can only be gained by emerging yourself in that Culture.

The logistics of moderating usability evaluations

This is more of an issue for visual design. IVR research is done over the phone so that we can evaluate the Voice User Interface (VUI) in the channel that it would be used in real life.

Remote user testing is something to be considered for evaluating visual designs if your users are geographically dispersed, especially for testing out early design concepts. This allows you to reach users across a wider range of locations than face to face research, in a quick and relatively cheap way.

I tend to use conferencing tools (like Lync or JoinMe) that allow me to share my screen and even pass control to users if using a functional prototype. I can still moderate sessions in the same way that I would in a face to face evaluation.

Analyse real behavioural data

Analysing usage data isn’t specific to Cultural Diversity, but is very important for understanding differences in behaviours between cultures. You may find users’ from a particular culture hanging up at a particular point in the IVR, or a lower than expected completion for a task on the website by users from another culture. This data can pin-point areas specific to particular cultures that may require further investigation.

In Summary…

Every project will be different. You may be looking at Cultures where there is also a language difference, or maybe just a dialect difference. But the important thing is that activities are in place throughout the process to support the identification, understanding and evaluation of Cultural Differences throughout the project process.


Topics: IVR Design