Designing User Interfaces for Different Generations and Cultures

Designing User Interfaces for Different Generations and Cultures

Daniel Hall 04/04/2024
Designing User Interfaces for Different Generations and Cultures

Designing for different generations and cultures is a complex process, yet entirely necessary.

As the digital age makes the world feel smaller, businesses have the opportunity to reach a broader audience. 

Cross-cultural design is not a new concept. In 2011, a study “Cross-Use Pattern Language: Cross-Cultural User Interface Development Tool” came out. It concluded that usability is enhanced when users’ cultural requirements are integrated into the website. 

Integrating non-English languages isn’t enough—many regions share a language but vastly different cultures. Generations, too, may share the same language but different sublanguages. Truly cross-cultural design implies appealing to a multicultural audience on all levels: from the smallest website elements to the general layout. 

Overcoming Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities


The benefits of implementing cross-cultural design are undeniable—there is a massive opportunity to increase a website’s usability and overall appeal to an audience of billions. 

But how do you go about it?

Let’s take a look at cultural relativism that impacts how you design a website.

Reading Direction Variations

Most of the West read from left to right and count objects in the same manner. Most of the Middle East read right to left. Meanwhile, some East Asian countries write and read from top to bottom. 

Web designers must adapt a localization strategy to accommodate their UI to a region’s language and culture. One technique is the use of a single code base for every language to easily switch text and images during a regional alteration. 

Use localization tools to create a library or framework with international elements to simplify the implementation of different languages, formats, currencies, and units. 

Preference Differences

The best way to address cultural preference differences is to dig into the commonalities and understand the culture better.  

Here are some basic requirements:

  • Scripts and fonts — ensure that the font used is supported by the local language, at least 16 pixels for clarity.

  • Images — make sure photos and graphics are relatable and not offensive to a particular culture. The use of a cross, for example, may alienate many cultural and religious beliefs, unless the website is about Catholicism.  

  • Color contrast — high contrast between the background and text provides optimum clarity; avoid blue as it can be challenging to read on different backgrounds. More importantly, understand how colors are perceived in the locality. Red is lucky in most parts of Asia but evokes danger in the Middle East and some European countries. 

  • Interface — the site's layout is a mixture of words and images or graphics. But language differs. The letters and words used, as well as their direction, will affect the layout. Arabic may take up more space than Mandarin. To cater to different languages, use a dynamic interface that adapts to user input.

Norm Variations

Dutch organizational theorist Fons Trompenaars and British management philosopher Charles Hampden-Turner created the Seven Dimensions of Culture to explain that people differ in values and beliefs in specific and predictable ways. 

Here are established qualities where norms vary:

  1. Universalism versus particularism — Do people value rules and laws (universalism) or do they believe the world is more circumstantial (particularism)? The former gives clear instructions, while the latter allows the individuals to make decisions. The U.S., Canada, and the U.K. are generally universalists, while Russia, China, and Latin American countries are noted particularists.

  2. Individualism versus communitarianism — A particular culture can prioritize personal freedoms or decide that a group is more valuable than an individual. You can focus on the individual when designing for an individualist culture or cater more to groups (families, office workers, communities) when planning for a communitarianism culture.

  3. Specific versus diffuse — This describes how far people get involved: specific means they believe professional and personal lives are separate, while diffuse means they think they overlap. For example, Germans have a high level of privacy that makes them take to a more specific approach, while Americans lean on diffuse as they have no qualms about sharing personal details.

  4. Neutral versus emotional — This is a clear distinction between keeping your emotions in check, which is quite common among the older generation and being open about your feelings, as Gen Z is prone to do.

  5. Achievement versus ascription — This refers to how people are valued: for their personal accomplishments or belonging to a certain group. Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, and the U.S. belong to the achievement group, while ascription is a more apt description in France, Italy, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

  6. Sequential time versus synchronous time — Some countries, like Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., prefer their timeline to be in direct chronology. Argentina, Japan, and Mexico believe that the past, present, and future exist in a continuum. So, you can design a linear timeline for those who are culturally sequential and or cyclical for the synchronic culture.

Understanding the specific ways where culture differs will help you design a more usable and inclusive UI. 

Using Tools and Methods to Create User Interfaces


Research is vital in cross-cultural design as it involves understanding different norms and values. It is important to be methodical, which entails using tools and proven research techniques. 

Every full-cycle software development company must diligently use the following methods: 

User Research

It is a study to understand what users need and want from a website. It involves qualitative and quantitative research to understand user preferences and varying cultures. It is crucial to draw respondents with diverse backgrounds. 

User Persona

Creating a persona of the target market involves specific details like name, age, gender, marital status, occupation, location, etc. It is helpful for cross-cultural design as you can localize many aspects of the personality. 

User Scenarios

User scenarios help designers understand what users want and need in a product and how they feel about it. The method usually includes storytelling. 

For example: Amanda, a 25-year-old Mexican-American master’s student, needs to study for a final exam that is happening in two days. She also needs to complete a paper due in three days. What platform can she use to manage her time between writing the paper and studying for the finals?

The team will then brainstorm and design a platform that best caters to Amanda. 


Based on the research and persona you have created, you can create a mockup website that reflects the cross-cultural design. The prototype can then undergo usability or A/B testing with people from different cultures. 



Cross-cultural design sounds complex and challenging in theory. But once you understand the differences and similarities between various cultures, then you can easily create a more inclusive design. It also helps when a diverse team of personalities contributes to the project.

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.

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