What Localization Can Learn From Dolphins in Asia

Quite a lot actually! In this case, it’s not  Flipper you need to chatter with, but read the great user experience-driven article featuring Dolphin Browser VP of Business Development, Edith Yeung. Edith tells us that it’s “culturalization”, and not just “localization” (as we know it), that is the secret sauce to succeeding in new markets.


Bottlenose Dolphin (image from WikiPedia Commons)

Actually, such cultural awareness, the nuances or contextual insights from local users,  brought to life in the product or service as user experience (UX), are key to success in every market. Now, there is nothing new in nuancing the concept of localization further towards what might be termed cultural customization, of course. However, it’s so encouraging to see  such an appreciation emanating from the VP level rather than from academics or UX professionals.

The article is well worth a read for some telling examples and use cases into the importance of local knowledge, relevant content, the reflection of local context in design and usage features, and how adopting a “one size fits all” approach to world markets is a recipe for failure. Again, we have a powerful challenge to the notion we need to learn everything from the U.S. Here are some lessons from Asia that can be “localized” for other markets too. Great emerging market stories!

What is particularly interesting is the Dolphin partner strategy, the development outreach, and engagement with smaller and open source players around the world. Time will tell if this approach will be enough to build and maintain a business edge. That said, the realization that “if you don’t talk to the locals you will never know” is a solid foundation to offering products and services that people really want to use. Did you know this?

The average Singaporean perhaps, would never know of the existence of a forum called Kaskus in Indonesia, which is popular and highly influential among young locals because it is sometimes politically incorrect, especially in lashing out against traditional rival Malaysia.

In Vietnam, Yeung also found out via a user event that the Vietnamese were especially enthusiastic about Dolphin providing 100 percent access to Facebook – unlike in the US where “people like all these gadgety stuff (of) gestures and voice” – as apparently the Facebook app works intermittently, likely due to selective censorship by the government.

Such user experience insights, based on the ethnography of human experience as we might call it in the UX world, are based on a process that others, in other countries and regions, should learn from. Sure, you need management commitment and some resources, but it isn’t hard to execute. What remains after that is to enable the wants and needs of those local users in a modern and compelling productized way that also makes business and technology sense, and of course to let your market know what is available.

The translation as user experience  message rings out loud and clear again. What a shame the localization industry seems as terrified of UX as ever.

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About ultan

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), Global Applications User Experience Director with Oracle, works from Silicon Valley on evangelizing the importance of usability to Oracle's development community and leading usability research into how enterprise apps users work globally. He has over two decades of experience of Zelig-like communication of insight into technology globalization issues through articles, books, conferences, and social media. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science in his spare time. Opinions expressed are his own and not the responsibility of Oracle or anybody else.

3 thoughts on “What Localization Can Learn From Dolphins in Asia

  1. Ayfer Bektas

    Many thanks for your blog and the link.
    While it is true to take into consideration the local habits (“local knowledge”) in order to provide the corresponding product we may want to distinguish between the various products and their purposes. Depending on those, the level of localization and customization will vary.
    For browsers and mobile apps, I fully agree. It makes sense to perform a UX survey and assessment in the local markets. However, there are many other products where such a level of customization isn’t necessary, e.g., for products used in science or in the operating room (medical device) – and even not possible due to regulations.
    The less a product is regulated by laws, regulations, and directives the more a customization is possible and the more it might be necessary. So, it all depends.


      1. Gráinne Uí Mhaol

        It should also be pointed out that the MORE the context is regulated then the less a one size fits all approach works: finance, HR, personal taxation, medical even (see the dialisys example). Facebook, by locale, requires customisation. And in the mobile space tailoring the UX is critical. Ultan’s preso covers it. Localization industry take note of context!

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