Cross Cultural Design: Getting It Right the First Time

Cross Cultural Design: Getting It Right the First Time


>>Apala Lahiri Chavan, MA, MSc, CUA: : Hi. I’m Apala, and I had head [inaudible] practice in cross cultural design and
design for emerging markets. Some people think that you just need to
translate the language of your design, switch currencies, and maybe
reformat some fields, but actually it usually does not work like that. For example, if you sell deodorants and count
the over four billion armpits to be deodorized, that is between India and China, you
might feel it’s a done deal as long as the product is available in those markets. Yeah, maybe with local language
text on the packaging, but, alas, the reality of the ecosystem of your
consumers in India and China are very different and very complex and, hence,
need much more to be done to actually get the two billion
consumers to use your product. I worked on a dialysis unit to be used at
home, which worked in America just fine, but in Columbia and India,
the story was different. Why? Well, the caregivers who were critical
to the successful use of the dialysis unit was so much more relaxed just
as a cultural attribute. So what was the impact of that relaxed attitude? Instead of heating the solution to the exact
temperature, they would often keep the bag with the solution on the
roof to heat in the sunlight or wrap the bag with a blanket for some time. Of course, using the solution heated in this
manner would often send the patient to hospital. Now, the designers who had designed the
original dialysis unit never imagined that their existent caregivers in any
part of the world who could be so relaxed or was semi-literate, or perhaps that
the power went out ever so often, and that the water was dangerously dirty. Our teams have actually faced
daunting cross cultural challenges. Like you might suppose that the design
of a wine cooler would not be hard, except in China where traditionally
wine has not been a popular drink and cold drinks are considered unhealthy. The only way we succeeded was to recognize that the Chinese customers do have
a passion for stylish furniture. Recently, I was working on a banking system
for people from low-income segments in Africa, and it looked to me like the original
design had copied the Indian banking system for similar segments, which,
of course, works well in India. But in Africa where there is no
caste system like there is in India, and overall there is less hierarchy than
in India, this Indian made customers feel like they were being disrespected, and that
is not the ideal brand position for a bank. We’ve learned that the only solution is to
design for the local customers’ ecosystem and for the local customers’ feelings. I remember working on one of
the early micro finance systems, and we initially had grand visions for advanced
icon driven and sound driven applications for our illiterate or semi-literate users. But in the end, what worked was only a legible,
yes, a physical legible and a mobile phone with camera because that
is the solution that fit. We know a lot about differences
between cultures, but in the end, we have to use advanced and
customized research methods so that our designs are informed and validated. There is no shortcut to success, and
it’s an endless journey of discovery. For example, I’ve been wondering about how to
law of reciprocity differs between cultures. How the supposed universal obligation one feels in receiving a gift may be
different across cultures. If you have noticed cultural differences
in obligations, do drop me an e-mail, and I’ll share what we find
on [inaudible] Connect. [ Pause ]>>Download a free white paper on innovative
solutions for designing for emerging markets at www dot human factors dot com
forward slash cc design dot asp. [ Silence ]

3 thoughts on “Cross Cultural Design: Getting It Right the First Time

  1. Mrs. Apala, I love your work! I will be starting my Masters in Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon this fall and I hope to go into the field of internationalization of ICTs and contextual innovation. I hope to also design for emerging markets in the interest of development. Your work has truly been inspirational for me. Any tips of how to break into the HCI for cross cultural design field would be much appreciated! Thank you!

  2. @ShruthiBharataNatyam Thank you. Yes we know about the mistake. It got through several stages of proof reading and the video will have to be reshot to fix it. Thanks for your kind comments on the video.

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