Observing cultural norms: designing a website for a UAE audience

Something to focus your mind when designing a website is the fact that, on average, it takes just seven seconds for someone to decide to stay on a particular site or move on. No question, getting the design, tone and content correct is critical to engage people and ensure they remain on a site you’re having developed for your business.

But sometimes the most important thing when designing a website in certain countries is ensuring it’s culture-specific and not out of step with its native audience. And that’s especially true if you’re creating a website and your company’s based in an Arab country, such as UAE.


Obviously the major language in UAE is Arabic. So should your website feature content submitted in English, you’ll require the expertise to translate it. This may not be straightforward. If you’re relying on a website design agency in Dubai for this, it’s imperative they’re capable of checking for words, phrases, metaphors and humour; it must all translate correctly and not cause offence.


Take note that certain kinds of images acceptable on a website for a Western audience may not be appropriate for an audience in an Arab country, the likes of women in lingerie/ swimwear, people drinking and figures dancing. You don’t want to alienate people from your business by offending them via your website.


Also, colours can denote different things and have different connotations throughout the world. When it comes to Arab countries, it’s important to bear in mind what thoughts and ideas specific colours will conjure up when used in a site’s design – red (danger/ caution); orange (loss); yellow (prosperity); blue (spirituality and safety); green (fertility/ luck); purple (wealth); white (purity and prestige) and black (mourning and even rebirth).


Website navigation and user preference issues are universal the world over, right? Wrong. Indeed, Arabic is written and read the opposite way round to many other languages (from right to left), thus when it comes to translating content into Arabic, copy space issues may arise. Plus, in the West the notion of needing to login to access a public site may be frowned on, but in more hierarchical Arab cultures a login requirement may be welcomed. In a complete switch with Western expectations then, the lack of such a user preference may reflect badly on your business. The overall lesson to learn? Be mindful when designing your website.