Always make time for tea

3 min readOct 31, 2018


To take a service or product to the global marketplace you need to understand the different markets. Specifically, you need to understand the people who will (or won’t) use what you’re designing.

Embracing a cup of tea: Image from Pexels

Lots of products and services are adapted to better suit global cultures. Adobe builds their software with designers around the world so that they can tailor it for each market. The iPhone is the same product around the world but the service (contracts, sim only deals, loans) surrounding it can vary depending on the market.

These products have successfully entered global markets because they understood their varying contexts, what their users around the world needed and designed with them all in mind. How? Research.

Global research can take many forms and can happen in many ways. It’s important to observe and understand user’s motivations, routines and habits in other markets to best design a product to suit their needs.

Here are five quick tips:

1. It’s a conversation

First, ensure your participant enjoys the experience. This is something I fear can be accidentally overlooked. Often, a large amount of time and money goes into logistics, recruitment, and organisation of any qualitative research. When we actually get to speak to a participant, we can come across as insight hungry.

So always take the time to build rapport. Personally, I don’t move into the meaty part of a conversation until we have all had a little giggle — often about the bad joke I’ve just made but that’s fine. Laughter helps everyone relax.

It’s always a good idea to ask how they’re feeling. This helps you gauge where they’re at. (Many participants will be nervous and will have had this meeting on their mind.) It’ll also help you measure how well you’ve put someone at ease when you wrap up the conversation with the same question.

2. Take the cup of tea

You feel good when you do something for someone else, right?

Accepting a drink can make someone feel more at ease and set the tone for a conversation ( I really don’t like using the word interview, it should never be an interview. It’s always a conversation.)

3. Don’t dress to impress

You’re often going to a person’s home after work or at a weekend — you need to feel relaxed and so do they. Wear casual clothes. Lose the suit, uniform, lanyard.

4. Take off your shoes

It’s not just about the shoes; it’s about taking the time to learn local customs. In many cultures taking shoes off in the home is very commonplace. You don’t want to ruin someone’s new carpet or scrape mud across a newly cleaned floor. In other cultures bowing is often used as a way of greeting each other. Do a bit of desk research first and learn how best to accommodate your participant.

5. Be an explorer

You’ll understand more about your participant’s point of view if you understand how it's been formed. For example never underestimate the impact physical infrastructure can have on people’s lives — commutes, living spaces and the feel of a city. These will all impact and guide the decisions that people make.

How do you design for global contexts?

The more you explore your potential user's lives, the more insights you have to build your proposition around. You’ll find similarities across cultures that help you create a strong foundation across all markets and from there you can fine-tune the differences to stand out in those markets too.

This is just a quick snippet of our experience at Idean. Want to learn more about global markets? get in touch!

Thank you Ben Young and Meg Roberts for your word wizard eyes on this.




Making and improving things to enhance lives. Inclusive Service Designer and founder at @Inclusively_, also a @ServiceLabLDN organiser.