Localizing for Emerging eCommerce Design Trends in 2014

In 2014, eCommerce design is on the go. As smartphones and tablets claim a greater share of how people around the world access the Internet, eCommerce design is adapting to better accommodate mobile shoppers. Here are seven trends that illustrate what you’ll be seeing more of as sites launch and redesign their stores — and the localization implications for your international eCommerce sites. 

1. Responsive site design

Responding to an array of screen sizes and resolutions has long been a cornerstone of eCommerce design, but the sheer volume of mobile options around the world has upped the ante on embracing responsive design.

Unlike adaptive design, which tries to anticipate and adapt a site to a fixed range of screens, responsive design relies on fluid grids and CSS to provide a flexible foundation for cart interface design. The Flexbox Layout Module is one set of standards that’s fared well across a wide range of browsers.

In terms of localization, responsive multilingual design is only going to get bigger in years to come. A best practice when approaching multilingual responsive is to design for mobile first — the mobile space constraints will help you to troubleshoot potential text expansion issues for the “longer” languages, such as German or French, early in the development cycle. Read our seven best practices for responsive web design and localization for more tips and tricks.

2. Bias for touch interface

The finger is the input method of choice for users around the world, and on mobile eCommerce sites, you can’t assume a mouse, trackpad, or keyboard will be at hand. Creating clear targets for those fingers is a must. In general, this means larger buttons and links. Localizing colors, shapes, and language for those interface elements will remain as important as it has always been for traditional interface design.

Many mobile devices come with a unique set of native hardware gestures that may influence your site’s interface choices as well. Knowing their platform and the types of swipes, zooms, and multitouch functions could very well impact your design. Does your target culture read right to left, as in Dubai? How will this impact scrolling through product selections or descriptions?

3. Increased flat design

Operating systems like Apple’s OS 7 and Windows 8 have done away with the bevels, glosses, and shadows of years past. Bold colors, clean edges, and even less explanatory button text has been the norm for many U.S. websites and apps. While this can make a great deal of responsive design challenges easier, it raises some questions about the localization process for your international users.

For an eCommerce site to succeed, it must build a relationship with the user through clear communication and the impression that the site is trustworthy. Design is a substantial part of forming that bond. Will flat design choices foster that trust with your target audience? It can depend heavily on whether you’re entering a high-context or low-context culture. For some cultures, the sparse, uncluttered approach with flat design might be perfect. For others, it might send them shopping elsewhere.

For a more detailed look at usability choices in high-context versus low-context cultures, check out our article, “Optimizing Web Design for Usability Across Cultures.” 

4. More content per page

The “quick view” and the “infinite scroll” are two methods eCommerce sites are using on mobile to increase usability for shoppers.

The quick view is a method for users to get more details on a unique product without abandoning a product category or list of results. The infinite scroll, common on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Interest, and Facebook, allows for more content without individual page loads or back/forth page navigation.

While social media sites have done a good job of evolving navigation habits across cultures, you’ll need to be sure that your site is localized in a way that makes this interface behavior clear. You’ll also want an idea of the native navigation gestures on the most popular devices in your target market. Your users may have expectations based on multitouch or swipeback gestures.

5. Stylized typography

The days of a few standard font choices for a website’s copy are disappearing with the rise of font services and APIs. Font display is now customized to match a brand’s look and feel. If you’ve embraced this trend on your U.S. site, will you roll it out on your localized versions? It’s not as straightforward as it might seem, especially if you’re translating your site into Simplified Chinese or Arabic.

Line spacing, kerning, and font face elements will have an impact on legibility on a mobile device. One of the major complaints with Apple’s iOS 7 release was the weight of the new flat design characters, which many claimed was hard to read.

The choice to roll out custom fonts for your international eCommerce site may depend on the scope and budget of your localization project.

6. Big images

Tiny screens don’t have to mean tiny images. Responsive design choices can make the delivery of large images possible and even preferable. Big pictures can make big targets for navigation or product detail views and can make interface choices more obvious.

A plus of the big picture phenomenon is the reduction in language you have to translate. If the image does a good job communicating what a product is, or what a user is supposed to do, you can cut down on the overall amount of translation time your project will require.

One caveat, though: Make sure your big images speak to your target culture and don’t come across as offensive. What seems tame and inviting in the U.S. might just be obscene overseas. You’ll want to have your localization agency help you select the right images for your project.

7. Mobile video

Smaller screens haven’t deterred people from using them to watch video. Mobile video is on the rise, especially in markets where broadband is ubiquitous. This is good news for eCommerce sites where product demos or commercials are an important part of the branding and sales process.

There are a few complexities to navigate when localizing video for eCommerce, though. First and foremost, you’ll want to have an idea if your market has a network where video delivery is fast and hassle-free.

Beyond network speed, though, you’ll need to address translation of video content. If your existing product videos don’t require translation (and project an image which doesn’t run afoul of local cultural considerations), you may not need much in the way of translation.

However, if your videos have narration or embedded language, you’re looking at some thorny choices to make. Embedded language and audio narration will need to be translated into your target language. With mobile eCommerce, you’ll also need to understand if subtitles are a viable option, depending on screen size, or if voiceover would be more effective.

For an initial rollout, you might not include videos in order to control costs, but going forward you’ll want to create video content with translation and localization in mind.

Upwardly mobile

There’s no doubt that mobile eCommerce will continue to grow as the technology that once sat on our desks now resides in our pockets, purses, and satchels.  While you may not track the majority of your revenue to mobile eCommerce now, getting ahead of these trends will help position you to outperform competitors who ignored the signs.

The process doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, especially if you’re experimenting in new global markets. A good localization partner can help you control eCommerce launch costs and advise you on the best practices for expanding your global eCommerce strategy.

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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