Episode #2 Global UX
Global organizations can no longer project their corporate views of a customer experience upon a multitude of cultures. How do you embed the nuances and subtleties of each culture into a familiar experience regardless of where you are in the world?
What does it take to create a culture of design? How does putting user experience first change the way organizations work?
Those are the questions being addressed at the UX Advantage conference. Jared Spool and Karen McGrane will be your hosts as they delve into a series of topics with top design executives. In this podcast, Jared tackles one of those topics, Global UX.
Sean Quinn: Hey, everybody. I'm Sean Quinn. Today I'm here once again with the co-executive producer of the UX Advantage conference, Jared Spool. He and Karen McGrane are working very hard on putting together an awesome conference that's focusing on UX strategy issues that no one else is talking about.
In this version of the UXA podcast, we're going to look into the UX Advantage topic of a global UX. How are you today, Jared?
Jared Spool: I'm doing fantastic.
Sean: That's excellent. Let's get started with this whole global UX thing. Global organizations can no longer project their corporate views of customer experience on a multitude of cultures.
That begs the question, how do we embed the nuances and subtleties of each culture into a familiar experience regardless of where you are in the world? There's no one better suited to answer this question than you, Jared. That's obvious.
What do you have to say about that?
Jared: Oh, no. There are definitely people much better suited. I can think of two of them. They're going to be at the UX Advantage conference. I'm specifically thinking of James Nixon and Gina Villavicencio, who are from Marriott.
I was talking with Gina and James. I learned something. In Japan, a king-size bed makes no sense. They don't have kings. You could have an emperor-size bed, but a queen size has no equivalent, because the empress sleeps in the same bed with the emperor. There is no notion of an empress or emperor-size bed, and there is no notion of a king or queen-size bed.
What do you do if you have hotels which have two types of rooms -- king and queen, double, twin? These phrases, we've learned what they mean, but they are very much American culture.
Sean: What do you do, then?
Jared: You have to come up with a new system. You have to come up with a way to explain the rooms, and you have to understand how people shop for things. They were finding in China that the process by which people book hotels is very different, because typing in the name of a city and looking for regional hotels in an area is a common experience in the US, but typing in the name of a Chinese city is a bit more complicated.
They tend to hone in on maps and zoom in, and they use the maps differently than we use, and the way that the maps are laid out are different than in the US.
In Japan, for example, there is no notion of a street name with a number. There are neighborhoods with numbers, and the buildings in the neighborhood are numbered in the order they were built.
Two buildings next to each other won't have sequential numbers like they do here. Finding places and understanding where things are on a map and these types of things -- the mechanics are different than they are in other places.
Those are just the obvious things. In India, the notion of a suite doesn't make sense. They have the Fairfield Inn and Suites as one of their brands, and the Towneplace Suites. Those brands just don't translate to Hindi or the languages of India, so they have to come up with alternative brand names.
That's the macro level of this. The micro level is even more subtle in that little things, like a computer that beeps in an Asian country might indicate that an error message has been given and someone could lose face. Beeping when you get an error, for example, is not necessarily a cool thing to do.
There are all sorts of phenomena that happen this way. Years ago, I had the opportunity to watch American companies use a German product. The product was SAP, and it was built in Germany. There were all sorts of things about the way SAP was built which, when you're an American, you suddenly realize, "Oh, wow, there's all these cultural biases put in."
I was watching people whose job it was to take SAP and built reports out of it. SAP is this large system. It's used in big companies. It tracks their finances. Companies need to build custom reports.
We were at a company that was building custom reports for these SAP users, and they would have to go in and they'd have to, basically -- when you build a custom report, there's database fields, and you surface those database fields and you sum them up, or you average them or order them in a certain way, group them into certain ways.
Let's say you're going through and you're trying to get a count of all the products that have been returned over the last 12 months, and you want to sort it by month, and you want to put the price and you want to show what amount of money was credited to that customer.
It turns out that things like the word "Credit," in German, starts with a K, so the variable is under K, not C. The variable name, internally for this software, was all German names, so the developer had to learn the German equivalent of all these English words to be able to write the report.
SAP could've translated their internal database fields, but that would've created this massive complexity. That's how things were done for the longest time was we would build it in one country, then have a team that would localize it for another country. The software took longer to get out the door, and it had this specialized team that was always translating.
Companies are finding that that's no longer acceptable, that you can't have the delay for localization. You can't have this team that is trying to compensate for the fact that this thing was written in a different language for a different audience with different cultural values.
Organizations are realizing that if they're going to truly be global, they have to actually act as if they were written in that country, as if they were created in that country, and the design teams now have to be a global team.
For any company that is serving more than one country -- which certainly is true for most of the Fortune 2000s -- they now realize that their design efforts have to be a global design effort, and they have to have global representation in the design so that they are not just taking something and retrofitting it but, in fact, designing it from the ground up with those cultural elements involved.
Sean: Is it a reasonable expectation, then, for a user to think that their culturally relevant experience is going to travel with them?
Jared: That's one of the challenges that you have. If I'm an American in Hong Kong, and I'm staying at a Marriott and I bring up the TV screen, do I get a Chinese TV screen or do I get an American TV screen?
There's no reason why Marriott couldn't detect that I'm staying in this room and that I'm based in Boston, and by the way, everything else I ever do with Marriott has been in English.
Why couldn't I get the American TV screen when I'm staying at my hotel in Hong Kong, and why couldn't I bring up a room-service menu that is not just translated to English but actually makes sense to someone who's American?
Sean: What are some of the processes that, say, a Marriott -- or anyone else, for that matter -- would have to implement to ensure that they're capturing the culture that they're servicing?
Jared: First, they have to have designers who are immersed in those cultures, who know those cultures well. Part of doing global design is having a team that's actually globally representative.
If after the United States, China is your next-biggest market, Europe is your biggest market after that South America, you need to have designers who are intimately familiar with those cultures, probably because that's where they live. That's where they are.
You end up creating this global design team that thinks in those terms and isn't just calling the shots from an ivory tower somewhere in a large city in the US or Germany or wherever, but, instead, actually contributing to the design and saying, "This is how a customer experience will work best if you're trying to help people in Beijing use the system."
Sean: Are there any organizations that have nailed this global UX?
Jared: No. Everybody is emerging with this. This is one of the bigger, newer things that we have to deal with. The reason we asked the Marriott people to come to UX Advantage is, of all the companies that Karen and I work with, they've really done the most around this.
They've been doing a tremendous amount of user research in China, in South America. They've got teams based there. They've got senior management in design in each of those venues. They see this as being critically important to their success, and, as a result, they are very much about building a great experience that feels natural in those venues.
It doesn't take much traveling around to notice just how different these cultures are and how just pushing the American way of doing things or pushing the European way or pushing the Chinese way doesn't play in those other countries. You really do need this to be a localized activity.
Sean: We've had another great podcast, another great topic, another
Jared: You're so welcome.
Sean: We've got some other podcasts coming up that are going to delve into some more of these incredible conference topics about which no one else is speaking, so you should definitely check out the UX Advantage website. That's at uxadvantage.com.
We definitely want to see you in Baltimore August 18th and 19th, because we are going to be looking at some amazing topics that will help to get you the UX Advantage.
Bye for now.