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Designing For Diversity: How To Position Your Web Content For A Multicultural Audience

By Eva Barnes , May 23 2018

Featured Image: Unsplash/Rawpixel

What happens when you see a piping hot, mouth-watering succulent steak? There could be two possibilities. Either you’ll try to devour it as soon as possible or you’ll be highly offended because consuming animal meat is considered a taboo in your religion. Whatever the underlying reason be, a single notion can give rise to so many assumptions, interpretations, and feelings. From a cultural standpoint, a difference of opinion and set of beliefs is common, but bringing them all under one roof can be a task near to impossible.

In the world we live today, we see so many cultures representing themselves on the global business forum, but is there any platform that responds to the kaleidoscopic needs of the multicultural dimension? In fact, the World Wide Web is one such place that is prone to the inherent intricacies of encompassing an all-culture approach. And the emerging trend to unify the concept of diversity is running an online business – big or small.

Any good designer realizes the need to carefully address the cultural oddities that might get neglected during the process of web design. The effort to become a member of the global web community is a matter of crux for any aspiring startup, which also has to target diverse communities across the world and incorporate their preferences in their web design. As easy as it sounds, crossing the cultural border from one to another requires a great deal of time and resources. But the end gains are massive, such as a potential increase in the usage of web elements, enhanced marketing, elevated engagement, and multifold customer satisfaction.

Once you’ve got all the diversity-including components in one place, you’ll see casual visitors becoming active and loyal consumers – only if you remain consistent with your diversity incorporation approach. In this article, we would like to introduce all the web designers to a broader realm of web design for a bigger, better world and the possible ways to do it. If you’re one of them reading this, this one’s for you.

Designing for Diversity

How To Effective Web Design For Multicultural Audience

Applying The Universal Unicode

The gist of a diversity-focused web design lies in the coding system. In computing terms, a Unicode is a standard for uniform encoding, representation, and management of universal text characters, irrelevant to the script. If you want to reach out to the audience belonging to different ethnicities, you must consider coding with a Unicode encoding system. So whether it’s Chinese, Arabic, Russian or even Korean, you can choose a Unicode form that allows you to explore the depths of multilingual characters.

Since we’ve mentioned the forms of the Unicode, the widely-used character encoding form is UTF-8, which is highly compatible with ASCII system, making it the default character encoding system for a standard website design. Once you set up the right encoding system for your website, you will offer ease and content to your visitors from varying ethnic backgrounds.

Symbols Speak Louder Than Words

Every culture has its idiosyncratic customs and symbols associated with its roots and foundations. These symbols and images, taken from the physical world, are portrayed as meaningful sacred things. This attribute must also be mirrored in the web design. These visual cues could help one understand the meaning of a certain attribute within the cultural context.

If you’re designing a website for a culturally diverse audience, you must seriously consider what types of symbols you’d employ and what importance do these symbols hold for your intended audience. Try not to use symbols that are considered a bad omen or a taboo subject. Plus, keep in mind that symbol significance varies from culture to culture.

Color Me Diversity

Among other primary factors that play a crucial part in cultural perception, colors might be the easiest to decipher and adjust in a diversified website design. People belonging to different cultures do not view the color semantics alike. If red’s considered a color bringing good fortune, luck, and joy in China, it’s also considered the color of death in Japan. If white is used to display mourning in the former, it represents joy in the latter.

With so much disparity lying ahead in choosing a color palette for your web design, you may stumble upon issues in the early web designing process. Just make sure that your design is sensitive to the color perceptions in different cultures.

Related: 6 Common Problems Faced During The UX Design Process

Speeding The Cultural Connection

Since you’re designing a website using your technical skills, you might code the entire website in HTML or JavaScript and use some flashy heavy graphics to take your web design to the next level. Here you are enjoying the perks of cloud nine and someone across the cultural barrier can’t access your website because their internet cannot pick up the speed to load your site. It is a pity that sometimes designers can forget to think about remote locations worldwide that don’t support high-speed internet connections.

By saying so, you don’t have to strip your website off of the flashy animation and other media or just make a low-key text-based website. Instead, you can add a read-only version of the website if your visitors are having troubles uploading your web pages.

Using Relevant Text For Better Search Engine Ranking

How are people supposed to find you if they can’t find your website through search engines? There’s no point in even displaying your crafted website when you can’t rank it up in the popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing etc.

If your website is loaded with colorful and flashy media, search engines can have a hard time connecting people to you. And also if you have texts embedded within that flashy content, the hassle manifolds. That is why you need to keep the relevant text in the HTML mark.

Addressing The ‘Keyword And Its Translation’ Feud

Keywords are the most important part of an SEO strategy, which throws the ball in your court. When you’re localizing your website, you can’t just use the popular keywords in English and translate them into your multicultural site. The thing is, the audience might not actually use that translated keyword to search the market for a particular local product, information, or service. They might use various versions of the same keyword and even use abbreviations for that.

That is why you need to keep yourself updated on keywords, phrases, metaphors, and abbreviations used by your intended audience and integrate these into your professional website. In the end, you don’t want to use wrong words for the wrong audience, would you?

Integrating A Flexible And Optimized Web Design

The first thing to keep in mind is to keep the user perspective when designing the website. For example, if you’re designing a website’s version for a right to left scripted language (say, Arabic), your website might come across space and navigation issues when switching from the English site to the Arabic one. The key takeaway here is to create and structure web pages that are flexible and easy to adapt.

One more thing. When you’re translating content from one language to another, you must keep your design and content simple and separate. In the English-Arabic case, you can allow free space adjustment and navigation tools with regards to the space provided. And… don’t forget to measure the page flexibility and optimization from time to time.

Adding Culturally Rich And Unbiased Content

It is important for every web designer to carefully research and consider various aspects of his culturally diverse audience. When one designs from his experience and interaction with a majority cultures, they limit themselves from developing a full understanding, which might affect their product use.

Moreover, even if you’re employing culturally rich media, the biased content can make things go the wrong way. Thus, it is necessary to select un-biased text and media and provide alternative support methods for your intention. For instance, you can avoid biases related to people of color and use better terms when referring to them.

Diverse Design Is On The Rise, People!

There’s a lot to talk over cultural diversity when it comes to designing website interfaces. Designers in today’s era should be sensitive to the issue and other practical matters that fall under the category of culture. In case you haven’t noticed, simplicity here is the compass that would guide your web design throughout the course of mirroring the perceptions of your audience.

With that in mind, let’s hope to approach the culturally rich audience on a bigger, better platform that brings out the best of each visitor. Your visitors and customers – regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity – are your key focus and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put some extra effort to make them happy.

About The Author

Eva is a marketing major with a keen interest in web design. She is also an explorer and loves to dig into web trends from mobile apps to visual communication and everything in between. Feel free to send her your web design queries or blog related feedback in the comments below.

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