1. Read about the Arabic culture
Take a glimpse at the vast Arabic history and read about their cultural, religious and social life. Get to know your target audience. Include your findings into your personas and journey maps. Be careful not to break the various restrictions and norms that are in effect over there.
2. Tech penetration may vary
Adoption level of certain technologies, digital services or platforms could be different than in your region. Seek for insights to find out what barriers you may face. Also, you will have the chance to know more about the interaction patterns your audience is used with.
3. Take segregation into account
There is a certain level of gender segregation in almost every country from the Arabian Peninsula. This division could be less strict in some regions, but you will still need to consider it when building the user’s experience.
4. Stalk on Instagram
Look at some local business accounts that are relevant or are competitors to your product. Take a peek at public personal accounts. Observe how Arab people are dressed and what they are used to sharing with the world.
5. Take a city break over there
You can go off the grid and travel to locations outside the mainstream tourist routes. Just “breathe in” those places and find out more about locals and their habits. Don’t forget to take photos: you’ll use them as inspiration later.
6. No city break? Use Google Earth
While a city break is not always possible due to time and financial constraints, take a tour on Google Maps’ Street View or Google Earth. Search for representative locations and try to navigate them like you were a tourist, physically there. Dig for popular places on TripAdvisor.
7. Work one day remotely from an Arabic restaurant
Even if you can’t travel to an Arabic location, it doesn’t mean you can’t observe the local culture and habits first hand. Go to an Arabic restaurant in your city and take a look at the people who walk in. Interact with them, if you feel like it, ask them about their favourite food or eat something traditional. Leave a review and build your inner empathy.
8. Sign your emails in Arabic
Suppose your product owner Arab. Try to reply to him or her writing “Have a great day” or “See you next meeting” in their language. It’s a fine touch to your client communication, yet don’t expect any UX boost due this tip. 🙂
9. Create mood boards
Collect colour palettes, architectural photos, portraits, textures, typography or quotes. Anything that inspires you. Digital boards like Pinterest or Canva’s Mood Board are a good place to start with this.
10. Build a think-tank
If you want to take the mood boards to the next level, reserve a small meting-room where you put all the inspiring images on the walls. Working a couple hours or hosting your daily meetings in this personalised corner will boost up your creativity and imagination, and help you get immersed in the culture more easily.
11. Listen to Arabic music. No, really!
There are plenty of free playlists to dive in to their specifically rich audio world and to get a close look at how they express emotions through music. It can provide you good inspiration.
12. Take or ask for screenshots of local apps
This will help you to understand the specific layout compositions and action flows that the Arab users are familiar with. Mastering particular details will provide no-brainer flows to your users.
13. Conduct polls
You can use Survey Monkey, SurveyRock or Google Forms to collect quantitative data about demographics, various user preferences, regional particularities in the user’s behaviour. Knowing these hard facts will allow you to adjust user flows and personas accordingly.
14. Validate personas with locals
Get used to your target users as they would actively be part of your team. Refer to them in nominal terms whenever talking about them. Validate their personalities and hobbies with a local.
15. Cross-validate your flows with your personas and user journey maps
Never loose country-specific details when you validate the user flows from each persona’s perspective. Repeat validation every time there is a major change in personas, flows or journey maps. Iterate accordingly.
16. Right to left layout
Not only do you need to write the copy from right to left, but many of the UI elements and their visual ordering is reversed within Arabic apps. For example, images don’t need to be mirrored but when you have a couple of consecutive photos that form a certain logic in LTR mode, you will need to reverse their order to meet RTL logic. Arabic numerals are still written in LTR.
17. Icons and their orientation
Icons are between LTR and RTL worlds. The “back” button — for example — is placed on the right side of the screen with the arrow pointing to right. Yet, many icons are “non-mirrored” shape (ex. loading circle with arrow points in clockwise direction, both in LTR and RTL modes).
18. Copy length
Buttons, labels and various expressions are longer then their equivalents in western languages, if we count the number of characters. Take into consideration breaking some labels on two rows or try to find shorter alternatives.
19. Use a translation file
Instead of using various conversion services, prepare a translation file with all the labels in English, so that you will be able to eliminate similar copies that perform the same action. Also, you can submit it to your Arab stakeholder to get a more precise translation.
20. Focus on text formatting
Use compliant font families that contain all the necessary glyphs. Italic text is not an option for Arabic copy and bold can sometimes cause legibility issues.
21. Be careful with language switch
If your app needs to work in two or more languages, be sure you provide the smoothest experience when it comes to switching between them. You could use the device’s default language during installation. Then offer language switch option when signing up. Changing the language should be an option from the app’s settings area as well.
22. Use appropriate images and symbols
Be sure the imagery you’re using is not defying any cultural or social rule from your target user’s point of view. Validate sensitive content with a local.
23. Study specific textures/colours and consider using them
The Arabic culture is very rich in visuals, especially when it comes to geometrical textures. Find out what various colours mean in their culture and use these assets properly.
24. Measure! Do user testing
Use moderated/un-moderated remote solutions like UserTesting.com, UserTest.io or even Skype to observe how your target audience is interacting with your prototype. Your best option still is running direct testing sessions where you can directly observe the participants’ behaviour in your own lab. Longer time and budget expenses but richer results.
24+1: SWITCH your mind!
Get into the Arabic culture!
Pay attention to specific details!
Know your user!
Love your project!