Thumbs Up to International Design Considerations?

I’ve been reading Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone. It’s a fine book written by two respected experts and provides more than 100 user experience design patterns, principles and best practices to use when designing social websites. Recommended!

Facebook Like Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?
Facebook 'Like' Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

I was drawn to the “international considerations” section for the Thumbs Up/Down Ratings pattern. This pattern, it says, might present issues for some countries or locales, because:

  • Raised thumbs can be problematic in some cultures. Users may not understand the symbolism, or worse, the gesture may even be offensive.
  • There are cultures that don’t see things in binary terms as a thumbs up or thumbs down response, and may prefer some nuance that’s in between, and less absolute.
  • Some cultures may not like to criticize openly, or maybe only a thumbs-up option is best.

All a bit vague really in terms of identifying cultures might have issues, don’t you think? Plus, I am immediately prompted to ask: what is Facebook doing in such countries or regions? In Thailand, for example?

Plus, I am not sure if such culturally-based recommendations are always as black and white (oh, the irony) as claimed,  given the nature of internet technology, globalization, and especially without any knowledge of the user and context of use. The only way to find out is to do some usability testing, taking into account context of use.

That said, it’s always great to see international considerations included in UX design guidance, and we do with more!

The comments are open if you agree or disagree.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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