One of the best things about Chilid (apart from great co-workers and an awesome office) is our clients. Here at Chilid we have the opportunity to work with companies from all around the world. This gives you the chance to get to know different cultures and it opens up a whole new perspective. Today we are going to write about what we have learned from working with Arab clients, from an European point of view.
Part 1: Environment and culture
Teamwork & management
The secret ingredient for success in projects driven remotely is trust. As we all know, trust isn’t something you are given in advance, so we had to earn it. Here are some tips that can help you build trust: effective communication, transparency, empathy and meeting your deadlines.
Technology & work procedures
Scrum Methodology isn’t a new thing, either for us or for our clients. Working iteration by iteration helps us to build the most efficient product possible and still keep the business goal in sight. Communication on a daily basis is crucial for transparency and to make everything work smoothly.
Different week order
In the western world we are used to working from Monday to Friday, but in Arab culture, the week goes from Sunday to Thursday. We really enjoyed it once we got used to it – we send the latest files on Friday, and the feedback is waiting for us on Monday morning, so it feels like no time is wasted between one thing and another. But you always have to plan your work carefully and take into account the different working days, particularly for the sprint.
This happens with most of our clients: we should always remember to check the time zone. This is especially important when scheduling meetings. If we schedule a meeting for today at 3pm, it will be 5pm for our clients.
Common understanding and straight feedback is our key to gaining the product goal. We have many scrum meetings with our clients In this regard (even though they are very often in another part of the world). We have no dress code at Chilid; everyone is free to express their own personality. But we are always considerate – it is thoughtful not to show a lot of skin.
Part 2: UI & UX
We can all picture the Arabic alphabet without any trouble, cursive style, 28 letters and written from right to left. It’s based on calligraphy – and that’s what makes it so distinct from the letters of our latin/roman alphabet. The weight, the shapes, the kerning and the tracking follow their own set of rules, and this influences the general look and feel of the product.
Different user behaviour
From the difference in the alphabets, you can already guess that we also have a different user behaviour. We are used to reading text and images from left to right, in a “Z” route. Since their alphabet is written from right to left, their reading is mirrored, more like an “S”. We just had to understand this difference and make it user friendly for everyone.
Various users on one board
One of the challenges was to design both for Arabic and English at the same time. We should always take into account that our product has to combine two worlds in one single place. The typography is chosen very carefully and is one of the most important aspects of trying to repeat a similar experience for all our users. We have to create a consistent experience, despite the differences.
Arabs follow a different calendar, which is called Hijri. It also has 12 months per year, but the years are 355 days long (instead of 365 in the Gregorian calendar), so the dates are not exactly equivalent. The years are numbered completely differently. For us, this year is 2018 but in the Hijri calendar, it’s 1439. We have to always have both calendars available when selecting dates, and be able to easily switch between them.
Arab numbers are also cursive, like the alphabet. When we are designing the tables and sheets in particular, we have to make sure we have both versions attached to the language change.
Visual design follows the same standards. The challenge is that we have to design the elements always taking different cultures into consideration. An icon that has a positive meaning for us, may be weird or even offensive in other cultures. Before we design icons, illustrations and select the images for our products, we do extensive research to ensure it conforms with all the cultures involved. Since we have meetings on a daily basis, and maintain a close relationship with our clients, we always share our concerns with them, and we’re able to get rapid feedback on what works and what we should rethink. It’s important to always care about the quality and ethics, and keep every user in mind.
Geographical location, culture or language aren’t a barrier for us. It doesn’t matter where you are from – we can build great products which respond to the needs of users whether they be in Poland, the UK, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. We are happy to work with people from all over the world. You can find the result of this collaboration in our case study.
*written by Anna Bil and Ana Dacol