It’s All in the User
Experiences You Create


What is UX?

Although UX has become a buzzword fairly recently, it is not quite as new as it might appear. Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, is credited with coining the term “user experience” in 1995 to explain the broad set of activities that his team was engaged in at Apple Computers. Here’s how he describes it:

“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

UX is not the new kid on the block, but its meaning has evolved quite a bit in recent years. Today, 27 years after the coining of the term, we can define UX in a much more straightforward and simple way: “UX is what the user experiences when using your app or website.”

Why is UX important?

Companies that prioritize user experience have a competitive edge. To succeed, companies must understand their users’ needs and focus on usability and business value. Neglecting these variables leads to missed opportunities to convert users into customers and negatively affects the company’s objectives.

Software should satisfy users by delivering a simple and effective experience. Better user experience leads to higher engagement and retention. Failing to provide value or enjoyment can result in users switching to a competitor’s app.

A satisfying product leads to loyal users and boosts revenue. UX design aligns user goals with business goals for mutual benefits.

Abby Covert, information architect and author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess defines it clearly and directly:

“The impact of UX is crystal clear: the more satisfied your users are, the more likely they are to do whatever it is you are encouraging.”

Nowadays, good UX means the difference between being among the trendsetters and market leaders and the rest of the pack. It is no coincidence that Facebook, Apple, Google, and other world-class companies invest heavily in their UX teams. It is also no coincidence that Jeff Bezos invested 100 times more into customer experience than advertising during the first year of Amazon.

Good UX design is a key element in attracting customers and maintaining their loyalty. Design Advisor rounded up some revealing stats on UX to find out how user experience can affect the growth and even the survival of your business in today’s competitive online environment.

We should not ignore the data: Good user experience is good business. Companies that invest in UX see a lower customer acquisition cost, lower support cost, increased customer retention, and increased market share.

UX is not UI

One of the main mistakes people make when referring to UX is using the terms UX and UI (user interface) interchangeably. Although the two disciplines complement one another, they are certainly not the same thing.

UX is what you experience

UX, as we have established, is the user’s overall experience using a product. It involves understanding why you are creating the software to begin with. It is an iterative process whose aim is to give clients a product that meets their needs.

To build better UX, plan for all end-user interactions, including localization. Don’t treat localization as an afterthought; consider it from the beginning to the final product delivery.

UI: the dark side of the moon

UI, on the other hand, is all about the look and layout of the app or website. It focuses on how each element of the product will appear in its finalized form — the buttons, text, slide bars, images, checkboxes or radio buttons, just to name a few examples. UI focuses on any and all visual interface elements the users interact with.

 The relationship between UX and localization

So far we have focused on explaining what UX is, why it is important, and the difference between UX and UI. But there is a fundamental element that cannot be ignored — the close relationship between UX and localization.

When talking about UX there’s a crucial element that needs to be taken into consideration: culture, language, and design go hand in hand.


When exploring the intimate relationship between UX and localization, there are several elements that must be considered. Next, we review the most important elements that you cannot lose sight of in order to create a truly global experience.

  • Length. Factors such as localized content being longer than the original text might cause your app to have truncated text, and text truncation will not help deliver a good user experience.
  • English is shorter than many languages, so UI/UX designers and developers should consider this. For instance, the Italian translation of “on” is “abilitato,” requiring a longer character limit.
    To accommodate this, developers should set a more generous limit for all languages.
  • Font size is another also factors that dramatically impact the usability of your app or website. Asian fonts take more space than English, and this should be considered when working in the UX Understand/Research phase described above. It’s important to plan for tall typefaces expansion. And some languages need extra line height to accommodate larger glyphs. Examples of such languages are Japanese, Hindi, Thai, and Vietnamese, among others.
  • Font family needs to be considered as well when it comes to optimize the best possible UX as we need to pay attention to fonts implementation for global consistency. Choosing the right font is crucial. Users may not notice it, but they’ll notice if it doesn’t display certain characters in their language. Limited support for non-Latin alphabets can result in what’s known as the tofu effect. “Tofu” UX bugs can be avoided by embracing the Noto project. The Noto project font from Google (the term “Noto” conveys the idea that Google’s goal is to see “no more tofu”) might be an option for an app to ensure the font is globally supported. Google is offering the font for free to help designers create useful products for global audiences.
  • Mirroring layout falls at the intersection of UX design and localization. Neglecting to consider right-to-left (RTL) languages in these contexts can leave potential users — Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew regions, for example — confused. And confusion is not an ally of UX. Most interface elements must be flipped to display correctly, making it essential to understand and implement this mirroring effect.
  • Color choices also influence user experience, and during the design phase is important to consider cultural differences. Uber is an example of a company that designs its app with different colors and patterns for different markets. Color plays a crucial role in UX design, with each hue having a unique influence on users’ minds. Choosing the right color palette is vital for UI creation, and designers need to consider the power of culture and colors as part of the UX strategy. To choose the right colors for the target audience, businesses must understand variables beyond geographical location or device, such as beliefs, values, and priorities.
  • Icons and images to increase local sensitivity are another variables we can consider in order to build trust at the local level. Google exemplifies the close relationship between UX and localization by adapting the Google Fit app to show high local sensitivity during the Understand/Research phase. The company changes the app’s icons and references depending on the target market to create a spectacular user experience. For instance, Google uses hockey instead of baseball as the icon of the app in some countries in eastern and Nordic Europe, where hockey is popular.
  • Clarity. To integrate content creation best practices in UX strategy, UX writers must prioritize clarity and avoid using jargon and non-localizable words. Writing easily localizable content can reduce errors, lower costs, and optimize workflow. These recommendations can help internationalize copy and achieve clarity. No matter what kind of content a company is creating, writing with localization in mind is the key that opens the door to global expansion.
  • Internationalizing the user experience: In our hyperconnected world, companies must think globally due to their products’ users being spread worldwide. For example, if an app has a limited-time offer, and the developer needs to send a push notification to all their users’ mobile devices, what time should the UX author reference in the copy when a globally available app means they are dealing with 38 different local times in use? Depending on the user’s location, a pop-up to promote an in-app purchase might be confusing. An English message reading, “This limited offer is valid until 9 p.m. EDT,” might leave Japanese users puzzled. Will they easily know how long is left to decide if they want to buy that limited offer? Designing for international audiences is a complex task. The above example of time is just one of the many factors that need to be considered when approaching UX in international markets. The following elements should be kept in mind when writing for global markets.
  • Cross-cultural design: The culture to which we belong has a very important influence on everything we do as individual beings. Culture matters when designing a product. Language has a big impact in a culture. Localization is the bridge between culture, language, and user experience.


Elisa M. del Galdo and Jakob Nielsen discuss this in their book International User Interfaces:

“It is no longer enough to simply offer a product translated in 10 to 20 different languages. Users also want a product that acknowledges their unique cultural characteristics and business practices.”

Amazon faced a challenge when launching their mobile site in India. Users weren’t using the search function due to cultural differences in icon interpretation. The UX team discovered that the magnifying glass icon was associated with a ping-pong paddle. Amazon solved the problem by adding a Hindi text search field alongside the magnifying glass icon.

  • Cultural dimensions. The cultural dimensions represent cultural tendencies that distinguish countries (rather than individuals) from each other. Geert Hofstede created a model to assess country differences. Let’s take an example of one of the dimensions to see how it might affect the UX design and the localization of an app. How do users respond to authority? Hofstede placed every country somewhere on his power distance index (PDI), which measured how societies accept power inequality. Some cultures expect information to come from an authoritative position, others prefer a flat structure and less distance.

Bringing the PDI dimension to UX design can have a subtle but significant impact. While authoritative language works well in high-power distance cultures, it may be received negatively by users in low power distance cultures who prefer a friendlier tone.

Cultural influence on UX design is evident not only in apps but also on web pages. For instance, the American version of Firefox or Google’s search engine is simpler and minimalistic compared to other regions.


UX localization is an essential step towards good user experiences in international markets. However, to fulfill the expectations of their international customers, companies need more than mere translation.

User expectations are continuously rising. Therefore, it is vital to implement strategies that integrate aspects of user experience design, culture, language, and localization to meet those high expectations from our customers.

Miguel Sepulveda a seasoned professional in the Localization industry, began his career in Dublin in 1995 working for Microsoft. He currently serves as Globalization Director at King, the company responsible for the renowned video game Candy Crush.




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