Interface for everyone?
It is impossible to have one universal interface of a service, website or application for all:
- for all markets,
- all countries and nationalities.
It just won’t work. Except for cases when the idea or benefit of a digital object is universal, and its interface is minimal and does not require involvement and learning from the user.
Or is it possible?
Culture and cultural identification, which is essentially a civilization identification, forms patterns of behavior and perceptions that, at times, are fundamentally distinguish countries, peoples and civilizations.
Samuel Phillips Huntington, for example, in his book The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of the World Order, which describes the dynamics of modern international relations, considers civilization as the highest cultural education that brings people together and provides them with a certain degree of cultural identity.
By the way, cultural identity also distinguishes the manner of perception and expression of people and affects the formation of habits.
In this sense, civilization is defined both by common objective elements, such as language, history, religion, customs, public institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people.
Under such conditions, insight cannot be universal, and what causes emotions and affection in some may repel others.
Civilization identity, according to Samuel Huntington, will play an increasingly important role in the future, and in the future the world will be shaped largely by the interaction of several major civilizations and at the same time deepening the differences between them, which poses new challenges not only for economists, political scientists, business, but also in front of the designers.
That’s right, no matter how surprising it may sound, the designer should understand the civilizational identity, understand which civilizations exist, what is the difference between them and what are the key distinctions. Why? Because all these people are business customers, and business attracts designers to create services for them.
Multilingual or multi-civilization?
During the Cold War, the world was divided into “first”, “second” and “third.” This makes less sense for the moment. Today it is much more appropriate to group countries based not on their political or economic systems, not on the level of economic development, but on the basis of cultural and civilizational criteria.
What is meant when it comes to civilization? Civilization is a kind of cultural entity. Villages, regions, ethnic groups, peoples, religious communities — they all have their own particular culture, reflecting different levels of cultural heterogeneity. A village in southern Italy may differ in its culture from the same village in Northern Italy, but at the same time they remain the Italian villages that they cannot be confused with the German ones.
What does this mean for a designer?
Your service should not only be diverse in terms of language, but also multifaceted in terms of interface. Depending on the language version of the service, the interface should acquire certain cultural qualities and forms that are understandable and accessible not only to the speakers of this language, but also to the carriers of a certain culture, that is, a certain civilization.
For example, the Western world, the Arab region and China are not part of a broader cultural community. They represent a civilizations. And when one designing digital products for audiences related to them, it is necessary to understand not only language differences but civilizational ones. Identity at the level of civilization will become increasingly important, and the face of the world will be largely shaped during the interaction of seven or eight major civilizations, such as:
1 Western civilization.
2 Hindu civilization.
3 Islamic civilization.
4 Confucian civilization.
5 Latin American civilization.
6 Orthodox Slavic civilization.
7 Japanese civilization.
8 African civilization (possible).
The time has come when services and their interfaces should simultaneously be multipolar and multi-civilization.
The differences between civilizations are not just real. They are the most significant. Civilizations are dissimilar in their history, language, culture, traditions and, most importantly, religion. People of different civilizations have different views on the relationship between God and man, an individual and a group, a citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, have different ideas about the relative importance of rights and duties, freedom and coercion, equality and hierarchy. These differences have evolved over the centuries. They will not disappear in the foreseeable future.
Who creates the design?
The world is getting closer. The interaction between the peoples of different civilizations is increasing. This leads to the growth of civilizational self-awareness, to a deepening understanding of the differences between civilizations and community within the framework of civilization. Therefore, the issue of accepting the attention of civilizational differences affects many areas of life. No exception and digital design.
Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that for designing interfaces and creating digital products it is not enough to have only a UX designer and a UI designer. An important role in the new approach will be played by a linguist-culturologist-historian-political scientist or a person with these competencies. It is possible that the designer will be able to independently combine these areas of knowledge or obtain the necessary conclusions through painstaking research. But it is clear that these studies are not typical. In addition to studying the market, product and consumers, it is necessary to study a particular civilization for which a product is created (features of language, culture, philosophy of native speakers and, not excluded, the history of the formation of nationality, etc.)
In addition, the design itself should not have a translation into another language, but have language versions of the interface with different structure and appearance.
In this case, your product will not just be multilingual, but each language version will have its own external and internal features, will adapt to the features of the user, depending on its involvement in a particular civilization. That will increase insight and user involvement. Which will enhance the understanding of the product and its useful properties for the audience.
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