How Culture Shapes User Experience

Georgia Pandria
Georgia Pandria
UX Expert
·1 min read
How Culture Shapes User Experience

Look at the picture 1. What do you notice first?…

Hannah Chua's experiment
Picture 1

…The cows or the backgrounds?

In 2005, Hannah Chua conducted a fascinating experiment on how people from different cultures perceive images, using pictures of cows. Her research revealed that Western (U.S., U.K., Europe) participants focused primarily on the cow in the foreground, while East Asian participants paid more attention to the surrounding context and background elements.

This study highlights a fundamental difference in cognitive styles: Western cultures tend to be more object-focused, whereas Eastern cultures are more context-sensitive. These insights are critical for UI/UX designers aiming to create products that resonate across diverse cultural landscapes.

Cultural Influences on UX Design

Culture significantly influences how people perceive, process, and respond to information. In UI/UX design, understanding cultural nuances is essential for creating user experiences that resonate globally. Cultural factors shape users' expectations, behaviors, and interactions with digital interfaces, making it necessary for designers to consider these differences to ensure their products are effective and inclusive.

Visual Elements and Cultural Norms

Cultural norms dictate how users interpret visual elements and symbols. Colors, icons, and even gestures can have varying meanings across different cultures.

For instance, in many Western cultures, white is typically linked to purity and innocence, while black is often associated with death and mourning. However, in several Asian cultures, including China, Japan, and Korea, white is connected to death, mourning, and even considered unlucky.

Similarly, the thumbs-up gesture is positive in some cultures but offensive in others.

By understanding and respecting these cultural differences, designers can avoid miscommunication and enhance the usability of their products for a diverse user base.

What do I do with research?

  • If you're creating products for a diverse range of cultures and geographic areas, it's important to conduct audience research in various locations to ensure your design resonates with different users.

  • When reviewing psychological studies, be cautious about applying the findings universally, especially if the participants were exclusively from one specific region.

  • Always consider incorporating cultural sensitivity into your design process to avoid potential misinterpretations and enhance the overall user experience.


In conclusion, culture has a profound effect on how people think and interact with digital products. UI/UX designers must recognize and incorporate cultural nuances to create inclusive, intuitive, and engaging experiences for users worldwide.

By doing so, they not only enhance user satisfaction but also expand their reach in the global market, ensuring their designs are both culturally relevant and universally appealing.

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