6 Cultural Considerations When Conducting International UX Research

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Posted by U. Ejiro O. Onomake on Jul 13, 2023

Do you know how your customers in other countries are reacting to your digital products? It's easier than ever to share your digital products and services with people across the globe. These days, building a great digital experience for all of your users often means including international populations in your research.

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When conducting international research, we always work with interpreters who are fluent in both English and the local language to ensure flexibility, communication, and the ability to troubleshoot. Having a network of trusted international partners is critical to ensure your research operations run smoothly and you get the best possible user insights.

However, as exciting and intriguing it is to launch in a new market, it also presents some risks including the potential for brand and reputation damage if a misstep occurs. Conducting research to understand the needs, preferences, and cultural differences of local consumers can help you avoid this when entering a new market.

Start with these 6 cultural considerations as you plan your international research project to ensure you're taking user needs into account:

1. Regional considerations

Regional differences can impact the perspectives you’ll receive from research participants. Even within a country, there can be several differences between geographical regions including languages, religion, ethnic diversity, education rates, health effects, and even access to technology.

Cultural and geographical differences can influence product design and the marketing needed across regions in everything from apps to beauty products. Understanding regional differences will help you tailor your research within countries and across regions to gain richer findings that represents customers and clients.

2. Understanding current affairs and history

Understanding a country or region's current and past political or cultural climate will help you hone in on choosing the right methodology and research questions to ask along with developing appropriate personas for the area your users are from.

Recently, our team has seen how the changing demographics and social movements have helped companies in London and other parts of the UK reflect the diversity of their customers in ads throughout a range of media platforms.

Keeping up with current affairs, politics, and media provides deeper insights into the mental models of customers and can help you interpret and analyze findings. 

3. Aim for inclusivity and representation

Seek to include the representation of diverse groups within the country market. While this may require effort to reach marginalized groups who may be underrepresented in participant numbers, you'll gain insights how a broad range of people experience your products. Their perspectives can help to shape the research insights, help further research objectives, and effectively identify opportunities for inclusive development.

Learn more about how DEI UX research practice helps clients identify opportunities for making their websites, online gaming platforms, and other products more inclusive. 

During a research project in Brazil, only one Afro-Brazilian participant was interviewed. This participant was also the only person to point out that the images utilized negatively depicted this ethnic group. Without their perspective, our client wouldn’t have known about the potential adverse impact on their users.

4. Understand what topics are sensitive and avoid them when possible.

Participants from other cultures may not be as comfortable talking about race, ethnicity, personal, or even financial information. 

Most U.S. research studies include questions about ethnicity because we as researchers want to ensure that we have the most representative sample of a population. Americans are used to answering survey questions about their ethnicity and usually know which box to check for themselves, but this could very well be a sensitive question depending on racial disparities in that region.

In Latin America, income and purchase behavior questions can be considered very sensitive and may make a participant uncomfortable. Similarly, participants from Spain can be protective of their personal information and may not want to share those details with you.

Be mindful of the questions you ask - if it doesn't impact the study, don’t ask questions that may be considered sensitive. 

5. Build rapport and rephrase questions if participants are reluctant to give negative feedback.

Building rapport is important. Focus on getting participants eased into talking with you. Simply asking some basic questions about themselves, such as the size of their family, where they live, or if they have any pets can go a long way. This will help get them comfortable with sharing details about themselves and their opinions throughout the session.

In some cultures, participants may be hesitant to criticize or give negative opinions of your product. If this is preventing you from getting new ideas on how the product can improve, consider rephrasing your questions. Instead of asking “What did you dislike?”, reframe the question: “How could this better meet your needs?” in order to get the insights you need.

6. Consider social media

Social media platform and app popularity is not universal. In fact, some of the most popular social media platforms internationally are not popular domestically here in the United States. 

For example, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and Kuaishou rank in the top ten most used social media platforms in Brazil, while in the United Kingdom, Kuaishou doesn't even make the list.

Social media usage is important in international research, especially when recruiting the right participants and understanding any potential competition. Knowing where your customers spend their time virtually will influence your advertising strategy and the platforms you choose to reach your audience. 


Wherever you go, people are different, and despite our increasingly interconnected world, there are cultural nuances you have to recognize if you want to meet people’s needs.

Even with these tips, the biggest challenge with international research is that every country has different cultural norms and expectations. And, these six considerations are only a taste of how many variables are truly at play when conducting research internationally. We’ve found it’s critical to involve local partners at every step of the process to ensure you’re taking the right approach every time.

Interested in conducting international research with us? Let’s talk!

Written by

U. Ejiro O. Onomake

Ejiro is a Research Manager at AnswerLab where she works with our researchers and clients to understand and exceed customers' needs. Her training in business and anthropology, along with her research across industries in multiple continents, has informed her passion for including the multiplicity of client and customer perspectives around the globe.

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