What to consider when testing a multicultural application

testing an application used by people from many countries and backgrounds

Funny thing happened on the way to this podcast, I suggested the topic given that we are introducing PT to Japan and seeing how the cultural differences are big between the Japanese market and the rest of the world.

And when I suggested it, Rob said that he did not have a lot of experience on this topic, something that I accepted as truth, and then when I started researching the points for it I realized that even Rob had fallen on the trap many of us testers do, of not thinking about the difference in the people who will end up using our systems, even if they come from the same geographical location… 🙂

When we think about an application, we need to first of all think about the users who will be interacting with it, and how their context, cultural baggage, constraints, etc will influence the way they use it.  In a sense, unless you are releasing systems that will be used by ONLY ONE section of the population, most of us will constantly release products to different cultures (even when you release to people who are part of different generational cultures) and so we all need to take this into account.

So let’s dive in!

Why are cultural differences important when thinking about testing?


  • Everyone approaches the world based on their cultural norms, individual experiences, etc. We must keep that in mind because if we do not consider that, we can end up alienating the very people we try to offer support to.
  • Try to think about small additions that can help improve the experiences of end users everywhere.


The importance of walking a mile on someone’s shoes

  • You can’t satisfy everyone, try thinking about the markets that you are aiming for and focus on them.
  • Go to the source – work with people that originate in countries where your software is released in order to make sure your software successfully approaches culture related specifications.

Observations and interviews as good tools

  • When observing or conducting an interview, record as much as you can.
  • Properly prepare yourself for the observation/interview up front; think about the information that can be useful to you.

It is not only about language, but language is definitely important

  • Language is important, but so does usability – how do people interact with your software.
  • Use diverse testing teams – crowd testing can potentially be a great solution for better cultural understanding.

Culture is something virtual and sometimes very real…

  • When working with testers from other cultures, make sure they convey their opinion on the process, from their point of view.

One Response to What to consider when testing a multicultural application

  1. Amanda May 29, 2019 at 5:03 pm #

    Great post! We recently launched a version of our site in Japan as well and everything you say here we have experienced. What I found from testing an English-first site in Japanese changed how we approached building new features for the entire site.

    For instance, in Japan, our users access our site on their phones SO MUCH more than our US users do – nearly 75% of users are on their phones in Japan, where in the US we see about 30%. We have a responsive version, of course, but we have now changed our approach to put a lot of focus on mobile features, and I had to rewrite a lot of my test plans for the mobile site as well.

    Another interesting find was how different the language is. We have sites in other languages, but Japanese characters ended up being much shorter than the English strings (and definitely shorter than the German), and we realized they counted differently in our form fields where we have a minimum character count validation. When testing the Japanese site the very first time I noticed immediately how our UI was effected, and that has become a large part of our feature testing as well.

    Overall, we decided to take the time to train our Japanese partners on how to test to make sure we weren’t making any “offensive” changes that we didn’t understand. Japan was the 4th country we launched in, and each is so different, and each region provides more opportunity and need to focus on different parts of the site, that our test suites have expanded (in a good way!) and we have a great comprehensive test that is applicable to all our domains.

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