How to design a product if you decide to enter the overseas market

How to design a product if you decide to enter the overseas market

Hello! My name is Natasha, I am a UX-researcher in a company that is engaged in design, design and research. In addition to participating in Russian-speaking projects (Roketbank, Point and many other things), we are trying to enter the foreign market.

In this article, I will tell you what you should pay attention to if you have a desire to withdraw your project outside the CIS or do something immediately with an emphasis on English-speaking users, but what is better to refrain from factors that you just spend time and money.

On the study of foreign audiences and useful tools, about the approaches to the interview and the choice of respondents, about the stages of this path, about our personal experience - under the cut.

Immediately, I’ll make a reservation that we are still in the process - we are increasing our audience in Medium , we are writing about our cases and processes, but so far we are entering foreign the market is mainly with the help of familiar guys who either do their own projects there or know those who do. Therefore, we cannot tell much about the ways of entering the local market. I will describe the steps of directly studying the market, conducting research and design if you are doing a project for a foreign audience.

Market Research

In this step, there are two main ways - to conduct in-depth interviews and not to conduct in-depth interviews. Ideally, to spend, if you have the budgets and strengths for it. Because in-depth interviews give you a very good understanding of the specifics of the market in general and the perception of your product in particular.

If you are a little limited in the means, or they are not exactly for this, then you can work without in-depth interviews. In such cases, we do not talk with users on a previously prepared methodology to find out in detail their way, identify problems, and then build on the structure of the service functionality based on this. This is where the desk market research methodology works (read - using available sources).

The result of this step is the behavioral portraits of users and the current CJM - or some process, or use of the product.

How portraits are made

To create a correct portrait of the user, you need to understand the specifics of the market (especially foreign). When you communicate with real users, you can ask them questions about their experiences and problems, clarify how they use the product, where they stumble, what they would advise to improve and so on.

But this is an ideal situation, and it happens that there is no such possibility. And then you have to use the resources that are at hand. These are all sorts of forums where users of similar services discuss problems, these are reviews of similar products (and if the user doesn’t like something, and much, he will not take a couple of minutes to write a review about it). And, of course, there is nowhere without a word of mouth and communication with friends in the subject.

It turns out that there are many sources, they are rather fragmented, and this is more a quantitative search than a qualitative one. Therefore, in order to actually obtain adequate information in search of portraits, you will have to shovel a rather impressive amount of information, and not the most relevant one.

We did one project for the American market. First of all, we talked with friends who moved to America, the guys told us how their friends are now using similar services, what they are happy with and what problems they face. And at the very top level, it helped us identify user groups.

But one thing is a group of users, and the other is exactly portraits, portraits of more realistic people, filled with problems, motivation, values.To do this, we additionally analyzed tons of reviews on similar products, questions and answers about data protection and other problems on the forums.

Where to get useful data
First, you can use specialized question and answer services such as Quora and the like. Secondly, it is possible (and necessary) to use what the user himself will use for the search - Google. For example, you are doing a service to protect data, and it scored queries in the search that a frustrated user can log in if problems arise. At the exit - a list of sites and forums where the audience you need lives and discusses similar problems.

Do not forget to use Google’s advertising tools to analyze the frequency of use of certain keywords and to understand how relevant the problem is. And it is necessary to analyze not only the questions that users ask in such forums, but also the answers - how complete they are, whether they solve the problem or not. It is important to look at it in terms of time, if you are doing a more or less technological service, then questions and feedback over two years can already be considered outdated information.

In general, the criterion for the freshness of such information strongly depends on the industry. If this is something that is changing dynamically (the same Fintech), then a year and a half is still fresh. If this is something a bit more conservative, like certain aspects of tax or insurance legislation around which you want to build your product, then the forum branches of two years ago will still do.

In general, the information we have collected. What's next?

An example of analyzing information on one of the requests

Further, all these reviews, search engine queries, questions and answers on the forums are divided into groups, led to some common denominators, which help fill the portraits with life experience and details.

Their morals

There is still a very important thing. If you do prototyping, interfaces, research, and other things, then you already have experience. A good experience that allows you to do your job well.

Here it is necessary to forget about him. At all. When you work with a different culture, you make products for people with a different mentality, use data that you collected, but not your own experience, disconnect from it.

Why is it important. In the case of a VPN service, what is our usual audience for such products? That's right, people who need to bypass the blocking of a site, which for various reasons is now unavailable from the Russian Federation. Well, IT people and people are more or less in the subject, which is necessary to raise the tunnel for work or something.

But what we have appeared in the portraits of American users - "Anxious Mother." That is, there VPN is one of the tools with the help of which the mother solves security problems. She worries about her children and does not want to give a potential attacker the opportunity to track their location or to access data and activity on the network. And there are a lot of similar requests from users of this category, which allows us to highlight them in a portrait.

Yes, she doesn’t quite look like a worried mother for 40 years, but we’ve already tired of looking for a suitable photo on the sinks

What does “Worried Mother” usually look like in relation to mobile applications in our country? Hardly the same. Rather, it will be a person who is actively sitting in parental chats and indignant about the fact that it seems like they donated money for linoleum a month ago, but tomorrow they will have to. Pretty far from VPN in general.

Could we have such a portrait in principle? Not. And if we were repelled by experience and did not study the market, we would have missed the appearance of such a portrait on it.

A behavioral portrait is a thing that is usually formed after an exploration; this is the logical next step. But in fact, even at the research stage, you can benefit from building a service and understand how people will behave with it. You can immediately identify the main unique product offers that will attract a set of portraits. You begin to understand what fears and distrust people have, what sources they trust in solving problems and so on. All this helps including the formation of textual presentation of the material - you can immediately understand which phrases to use on the landing page of your product. And what is also important - which phrases should not be used exactly.

Speaking of phrases.

Language Problems

We did one project with a focus on the American market, not only on IT people, but also quite ordinary users. This means that the textual presentation should be such that everyone understands and understands normally - both IT specialists and non IT specialists, so that a person without any technical background can understand why he needs this product at all and how to use it, how it will solve problems./>
Here we conducted in-depth studies, this is a standard methodology, you highlight the main characteristics of user groups. But there are some problems here too. For example, with recruit. A foreign user for research is twice as expensive as a Russian recruit. And it would be okay if only money - you have to be prepared and for the fact that the recruit will slip for research not the American user you need, but those who recently came to live from Russia to America. That completely knocks down the sight of research.

Therefore, it is necessary to carefully discuss all the conditions and exceptions - what kind of user is needed for research, how many years he should spend in America and so on. Therefore, in addition to the usual characteristics for the study it is necessary to enter the detailed requirements for the respondent in terms of the country itself. Here you can directly state that you are looking for people with such characteristics and interests, and they should not be immigrants, should not speak Russian, and so on. If this is not noted immediately, then the recruit will follow the path of least resistance and urge you to study former compatriots. It is, of course, good, but it will lower the quality of research - you are making a product oriented specifically to Americans.

CJM based on data analysis - the existing process for solving data protection problems in the US and EU

With the language is also not so simple. We know English well, but we can still miss some moments just because we are not our speakers. And if you make the product not in English, but in some other language, it is still more difficult. Hiring a foreign freelancer is not an option. We used to take a translator from Thai. Good experience. Now we know for sure that we will not do this again. It took us 3 times more time, information was collected 5 times less. It works like a broken phone - half of the information is lost, another half do not reach, there is no time to deepen the issues. When you have a break of free time and nowhere to put money - it’s the most.

Therefore, in such cases, when preparing something for a similar market, it also helps to study questions in English - its universality makes the same English-speaking resources the main source of information for such countries. As a result, you can successfully get and portraits, and CJM, which the user passes, and the actions within each stage, and problems.

CJM based on a comprehensive study - one of the portraits of B2B exporters, ASIA

Studying problems is important in principle, because people go to discuss a situation in which they pay money for service, but continue to face problems.Therefore, if you make a similar paid service, but without such problems - in general, you understand.

In addition to problems, you should always remember about the capabilities of the service. There are opportunities that form the frame of your service as a whole. There are some non-critical features, additional buns. Something that can become that small margin, which is why your choice will be chosen from similar products.


We have portraits and CJM. We are starting to build a story map, a grocery part, about how the user will walk inside the service, what functions will be received in what order - all the way from the first recognition to receiving the benefits and recommendations to friends. Here we are working on the presentation of information, from the landing page to the advertisement: we describe in what terms and what we need to talk with the user, what makes him tick, what he believes.

Then we build an information scheme based on the story map.

Part of the product's functionality is one of the scenarios in the info schema

Yes, by the way, about the design, there is an important trifle. If you make an application or website not only in English, but for several at once, start designing from the very visual “ugly” language. When we made services for Americans, Europeans and Asia, we designed all the elements first in Russian, with Russian names of all elements and Russian texts. It always looks worse, but if you designed it in Russian so that everything worked out fine, in English then your interface will be great at all.

Here is the well-known property of English that it is simpler, shorter and more capacious at the same time. In addition, there are a lot of native elements and names of buttons on it, they are well-established, people got used to them and perceive them quite unequivocally, without different interpretations. And here it is not necessary to invent anything, because such an invention creates barriers.

If there are large text blocks in the interface, then all this is necessarily read by the nive. Here you can find people on sites like Italki, and ideally build up a base of people who will help with this. There is a cool person who knows the rules of the language, grammar and so on - well, let them help with the text as a whole, help to correct little things, indicate that “They don’t speak like that”, check idioms and phraseological units. And there are still people who are precisely in the subject of the industry in which you are making a product, and it is also important that your product speaks the same language with people and in terms of the characteristics of the industry.

We usually use both approaches - the text reads a noob, and then a person from the industry helps to land it on the scope of the product. Ideally - two in one, if the person is from the sphere and at the same time with the formation of a tichera and good grammar. But he is one in five thousand.

If you have done well research, the most typical and used phrases and expressions will already be in your CJM and portraits.


The result is a designed prototype, a very detailed communication scheme (all errors, fields, push, emails), all this must be worked out in order to give users a product.

What do designers usually do? They give several screen conditions. We create a holistic experience, carefully working through all the texts. Suppose we have a field in which 5 different errors can occur, because we know well the logic of how users work with these fields and know exactly where they can make mistakes. Therefore, we can understand how to dump a field and what phrases to communicate with them with each error.

Ideally, for one team to work through your entire communication scheme. This will allow you to maintain the consistency of experience in different channels.

When checking texts it is important to understand that there is a researcher who was engaged in the construction of a portrait and CJM, and there is a designer who does not always have the experience of a researcher.In this case, the researcher should look at the texts, evaluate the logic and give a feedback about whether to correct something, or everything is OK. Because he can try on the resulting portraits.

And this is one of the portraits for the EU financial service, created on the basis of interviews with users

For the same service with a more creative slant

Some are used instead of the prototype to immediately do the design, tell you why there is still first a prototype.

There is a man who thinks through logic, and there is a man who does beautifully. And everything would be fine, but between logic and beauty there is usually the fact that the customer rarely provides full TK. Therefore, we often have a prototype - this is a kind of task for analysts or those who will program the product. In this case, you can understand some technical limitations, understand how to make a product for a user, and then communicate with customers about this topic, communicate to them what things can be considered critical for a user.

Such negotiations are always a search for a compromise. Therefore, the designer is not the one who took and made the user awesome, but the one who managed to find a compromise between the business with its capabilities and the limitations and desires of the user. For example, banks have restrictions that cannot be avoided - as a rule, it is not very convenient for the user to fill out 50 payment fields, without them it’s more convenient, but the Bank’s Security Council and internal regulations will not allow it to completely withdraw.

And after all the changes in the prototype, a design is made that will not undergo any major edits, because you fixed everything at the prototype stage.

Usability Test

No matter how well we explore our audience, we still test designs on users. And in the case of English users here, too, has its own characteristics.

For the simplest portrait of a foreign user, recruiting agencies charge 13,000 rubles and more. And again it is necessary to prepare for the fact that they can slip a person who does not meet the requirements for this money. Again, it is critical for the respondents to have a cultural code and features of the netive.

For this we tried to use several sources. First Upwork, but there turned out to be too many narrow specialists and few people in search of not the most qualified labor. Plus, everything is strictly with requests, when we wrote directly that we need people of a certain age or gender (in samples and characteristics there should be a distribution — so many such, so many) —we grabbed bans for ageism and sexism.

The result is a double filter - first, you find those who meet the specified characteristics, and then with pens we screen out those who do not fit by sex and age, for example.

Then we went to craigslist. Loss of time, strange quality, did not take anyone.

A little desperate, we began to use the services for dating. When people understood that we did not want exactly the same thing as they, they complained about us as spammers.

In general, recruitment agencies - the most working option. But if to avoid its high cost, it is easier to stay on word of mouth, which we did. They asked their friends to post ads on the campuses of universities, there is a normal practice. From there, and recruited the main respondents, well, and someone colleagues asked around for more serious portraits.

Regarding the number of respondents, we usually recruit 5 people for each selected group of users. There is a study of Nielsen Noman, which shows that even testing on groups, in each of which there are about 5 qualitative respondents (representative), removes 85% of interface errors.

And still it is necessary to take into account that we carried out testing remotely. It is personally easier for you to establish contact with the respondent, you follow his emotional manifestations, you notice the reaction to the product. Remotely it is more complicated, but there are also pluses. The difficulty is that even at the conference with Russian guys, people constantly interrupt each other, someone may have problems with communication, someone did not understand that the interlocutor will now begin to speak, and began to speak himself, and so on.

Advantages - with remote testing, the user is in a familiar environment, where and how he will use your application, with his usual smartphone. This is not the atmosphere of the experiment, where one way or another it will be a little unusual and uncomfortable.

The sudden discovery was the use for tests and product display via Zoom . One of the problems with the test products that we can not just share it with the user - NDA and the like. You can not give a prototype directly. You can not send a link. In principle, there are a number of services that allow you to connect the cord and record simultaneously the user's actions from the screen and his reaction to it, but they have disadvantages. Firstly, they work only on Apple technology, and it is necessary to test not only for it. Secondly, they are significantly worth (about $ 1000 per month). Thirdly, at the same time they can suddenly blunt. We tested them, and sometimes it happened that you were leading such a usability test, and then suddenly you did not lead after a minute, because everything suddenly fell off.

Zoom allows the user to share the screen and give him control. On one screen at home you see his actions in the interface of the site, on the other - his face and reaction. Killer feature - at any moment you take control and return the person to the stage you need for more detailed research.

In general, for now this is all I wanted to talk about in this post. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them. Well, a small cheat sheet.


  • Study the market anyway, with or without a budget. Even a request to Google, as a potential user of your service would do, will help collect useful data - what people are looking for and ask what annoys them, what they are afraid of.
  • Chat with experts. It all depends on social capital, do you have people in your circle who can help validate your ideas. I somehow had an idea, I was going to write an article, collect feedback and check the product, but I asked 3-4 questions to a familiar expert. And I realized that you should not write anything.
  • Do interfaces first in an "ugly" language.
  • Subtract with netiws not only grammar and so on, but also conformity with the industry in which you launch the product.


  • Zoom for testing.
  • Figma for info schema and design.
  • Hemingway is a service equivalent of an gravity for English.
  • Google to understand the market and inquiries.
  • Italki to search for nouns.
  • Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) for the story map.
  • Social networks and social capital for finding respondents.

Source text: How to design a product if you decide to enter the overseas market