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Global design with local understanding

Millions of people in more than a hundred countries now use Ebay’s sites and apps every day. These visitors represent a myriad of different cultures. Knowing precisely how to tailor its user experience for them is critical to the success of eBay.

This is no simple matter. The choices sellers and buyers make during a customer journey to take the next step, to trust a proposition or not, to continue or break off a transaction, happen within a split second and are often motivated by minute design features these website visitors are not consciously aware of. Figuring out which features those are, and which cultural differences in which locations cause which positive or negative responses to them, is critical to the continuing success of eBay.

In collaboration with eBay’s Design Research and Strategy team, we created a practice-oriented approach to global UX design that enables design teams and researchers to filter out the most important insights about cultural differences, and apply these early on to their designs. The entails a structured way to look at designs through the eyes of end-users of different cultures and make hands-on changes based on a solid understanding of the effect they will have on the user experience.

Guided and structured facilitation by a team from STBY (London & Amsterdam) and Apogee (Hong Kong) helped participants to practice on a range of design examples, some pre-prepared and some brought along from projects by participants. The approach was underpinned by a Global Design framework specially developed for eBay in the run-up to the training.

As we prepared for the training, whilst studying local cultures, current market and design knowledge, and technical UI standards as applied to localisation, it became increasingly clear that no material existed on how to take steps to practice local interpretation as applied to design examples. So this was a pioneering effort. Because of the length and intensity of the training sessions, we also devoted special attention to didactic design, to avoid excessive cognitive or visual overload, so participants could devote all their energy to the task at hand, and not succumb to fatigue as the day progressed.

The responses to the workshop are very positive. We feel we’ve helped eBay’s teams take an important first step towards connecting design and research to form a truly effective global practice. And we’re convinced that this new approach to global UX is widely applicable for companies who serve local markets on a global scale.