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Exploring the Internationalization of Product Design

Marilia Corticinho

Junior Associate -UI/UX ,

Digital

As the digital space evolves, there is now a notable shift to the internationalization of product design. So, does this mean the borders of product design are blurring and cultural differences are being lost?

Not long ago, when it came to website design style, there was a defined contrast between East and West. Designers and specialists dedicated their time to writing detailed articles with numerous, obvious differences. In the West there was a clear preference for clean, uncluttered, almost minimalistic layouts while, in the East, the efficient use of space was valued to maximize product exposure. The diversity of typography styles was also limited in the East while, in the West, there was much greater variety.

Recent changes in web design

When I began my research, I wanted to simply address the differences between web design in the East compared to the West. But, as I found more material, mostly pre-dating the early 2020s, I started to question how much it has changed in recent years. I’ve concluded that one of the big factors driving this shift was the Covid pandemic. Lockdown compelled people worldwide to shop from the comfort of their homes, transcending physical boundaries and enabling a universal marketplace where people could seamlessly browse products from all over the world. So, the internationalization of product design became a practical necessity.

The contrast between East and West

There were previously a number of things that defined an apparently strict divide between what East and West design looked like. Being familiar with websites such as Shein, Alibaba, and Naver, I knew that the style usually favored by East Asian websites was what many in the West might consider somewhat overwhelming – with numerous product images and promotions flashing before your eyes. Meanwhile, in the West, it was clear that the less cluttered and flashy style worked better for users on that side of the world. But, was this now still the case? In the three years since the pandemic hit, it’s clear that users from all over the world, including the West, buy from websites once considered cluttered, like Naver or Temu.

Differing languages: similar design

As I compared web design images, one example clearly illustrated how differences between East and West design have dissolved in recent years – Amazon. Looking at a side-by-side comparison of the design choices for the UK versus China, regional differences are no longer so apparent; currently, the e-commerce website looks almost the same in both countries. Amazon’s design choice went from designing with localization in mind to adapting their design with internationalization in mind.

 

The move to a universal design language

This shift towards a universal design language is not exclusive to e-commerce. As the digital landscape becomes increasingly interconnected, the one-size-fits-all approach is extending to a variety of sectors, such as mobile applications and social media platforms. The surge in online activity initiated by lockdown has accelerated this process, as users demand consistency and familiarity in their digital interactions.

With this homogenization though, questions arise about the potential loss of cultural and regional identity. As design choices are standardized, are we inadvertently sacrificing the unique visual expressions that once distinguished one culture from another?

Respecting regional differences

As we navigate this evolving landscape, designers must strike a delicate balance, harmonizing design for global accessibility, without sacrificing the cultural and regional aspects that add depth to the digital canvas. The internationalization of web design should not be a march towards homogeneity, rather it should be an opportunity to create a design language that bridges gaps, while still preserving the beauty of each culture. By respecting this equilibrium, the future of web design holds the promise of a globally resonant yet culturally vibrant aesthetic.

The Author

Rachel Anderson, Digital Lead at Synechron UK
Marilia Corticinho

Junior Associate -UI/UX

Marilia Corticinho is a Junior Product Designer from Portugal based in Dubai, with a Masters in Design and a background in Translation. Marilia places a high value on empathy in both work and life.

You can get in touch on: LinkedIn

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