The Oban Blog

Designing UX for new countries: How different cultures navigate

Ever wondered why you might find it difficult to navigate around some websites? Ever hear yourself saying, “I can’t find anything here! Who designed this?” Nowadays it’s common to find yourself on websites created in other parts of the world, looking at unfamiliar page design where some pages are clearly easier to use than others.

Why is this the case? Well, interestingly, it’s largely down to the way you’ve previously navigated and experienced websites – including ones from your own country – and not just the design. If you are British, then your pattern of movement across a website will differ from other nationalities and therefore your expectation of where you will find certain elements, will differ.

This is all fine if you’re the user. But what if you’re designing pages for a number of other countries?

If you really want to improve page and website performance, you’ll need to learn how users from different cultures move around webpages; with this information you’ll discover which parts of a page users think are most relevant, as well as reveal where to place key elements such as images, navigation links, buttons or call-to-actions (CTAs). From here you can then make informed decisions about your designs and develop hypotheses for conversion testing.

To do this you’ll typically need to perform a series of qualitative studies which are time consuming and costly; interviewing users and analysing hours of screen recordings can make a big dent in your budget! These studies also usually only feature a small number of people, which isn’t useful when your site may have thousands, or millions of users…

How we use Think-Track™

We get around this by using Think-Track™ testing. Think-Track™ offers an accessible way to observe a large number of users’ behaviours on a page at a reasonable cost and in a relatively short period of time; it’s the best way we know to study how people from different cultures explore a webpage.

And to really put it to the test, we partnered up with computer giant Dell to see how users from 7 countries explore its homepage, category and a selected product page.

The study collected data from around 200 users for each country – this took only a few days to collect, making a massive saving on data gathering costs. By creating velocity maps (pictured below) we gained a fantastic insight into the prominent eye movement over the company’s pages for Brazil, Canada, France, India, Japan, UK and US.

The arrows indicate the direction of eye movement, while the colour indicates how fast these movements are (red means fast and yellow means slow). From the maps, it is possible to see that the direction of the arrows (and colour) is quite different for the three countries shown.


So, what did we find?

– Japanese users start reading the whole page from right-to-left; they also scan the content a few times (that’s why you see the swirl on the image).

– UK users don’t have preferences for parts of the hero banner (picture and text are treated equally). Also, they scan the content from left to right.

– Users in Canada pay more attention to the text in the hero banner – so, for them, having that feature on the hero banner works. They also move slowly over the content in comparison to UK users, suggesting they spent more time looking at it.

How we can use this information?

The maps give insights into how we might design pages for each country. In the case of Canada, a CTA may be better placed on the hero banner, but for a page in Japan it might be better to place it in the top-right – vital insights for wireframe design, which can then also be A/B tested.

The maps generated from Think-Track™ allowed us to give evidence-based recommendations on how to proceed with design and it also supported the creation of hypotheses for testing for Dell.

Finding out how your users are really experiencing your website must be part of your planning if you want to make websites that work for different audiences.  We’ve proven time and again that user behaviours vary across cultures.