Culture in UX Designs for Africa
As the global market becomes increasingly competitive and more companies are vying for customers’ attention, it is essential to understand how to create user experiences that are suitable for different cultural contexts. This is especially true when designing products or services for Africa, a continent with a rich history, diverse cultures, and an ever-growing base of tech users. To ensure success in this market, businesses must take into account localisation and globalisation strategies within their UX design process.
What Is Localisation?
Localisation refers to the process of adapting products or services to meet the specific needs of a particular target audience. This involves taking into account language preferences as well as cultural considerations such as colours, symbols, styles, images, etc., which may be associated with certain ethnic groups or countries. It also includes understanding local laws and regulations that might affect the product’s usability.
What Is Globalisation?
Globalisation is the process of making products available on an international level by expanding their reach beyond one geographic location or demographic group. This means that companies must think beyond traditional marketing strategies when designing their products or services so they can be used in multiple countries without any issues arising due to cultural differences.
Developing User Personas for African Users
User personas are essential to knowing your user, but a lot is missed when you don’t know your users culture, as points out by Carrie Cousins. Localising a product and can be done through User Research incorporating culture which underpins their thoughts and behaviour. This is fundamental when creating products or services for African markets because they help designers gain insight into what users need and want from their experience with the product/service, as well as what they inherently expect to see, and what one expects to see should permeate all aspects of their needs and wants. Some great work has been carried out by YUX Design to investigate the need for UX design, and culturally appropriate tools for it in their report in several African countries.
African anthropology is little known as it pertains to interactions on computerised devices. There is research around cross-cultural design, on the web, in East Asia by Pei-Luen Rau, Tom Plocher, and Yee-Yin Choong here, but not much for African ethnic groups. Furthermore, the vast majority of studies are on desktop usage, rather than post-PC devices (i.e. smartphones, VR headsets, IoT devices, etc.) where a greater understanding of sensuous dispositions in African cultures is needed. This is to be understood by academic research as opposed to User Research, and studies so far affirm that African epistemologies differ greatly from Western ones. Namely, one study by Kathryn Linn Geurts asserts that there are false assumptions on the weight and meaning of the 5 senses in Anlo-Ewe-speaking people in south-eastern Ghana.
As a prerequisite, special attention to African epistemologies which refer to how knowledge is acquired in Africa — through senses other than sight alone — is needed to pinpoint the bodily sense of knowing and ensure it’s tailored to the target people group to avoid misreadings. Following from that, African anthropologies assessed through the right African epistemology should inform User Research's initial questions as it pertains to sensuous dispositions such as kinaesthesia (feelings related to movement), somatic sensations (touch-based feelings), proprioception (sense of self-movement), and vestibular sensations (balance/spatial orientation). Pioneering work on this is a study called African epistemologies for African anthropology by Archie Mafeje.
Creating effective UX designs for African markets requires careful consideration of both localisation and globalisation strategies so that businesses can reach out to potential customers from all corners of the continent by catering to its diverse cultures and customs. By leveraging insights from ethnography and anthropology studies as well as developing user personas based on sensuous dispositions such as kinaesthesia and somatic sensations, businesses can create products that engage and resonate deeply with African users while still being globally accessible. Ultimately, this will help them stand out among the competition in an increasingly crowded marketplace where differentiation is key to success!
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