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Visual Language

1 May 2019
Chezky Shneller

How can we uniformly direct users that speak different languages? One solution is a use of simple, Visual Language. Visual Language is applied for websites, blogs or even physical locations such as train stations and airports. Visual Language, especially symbols and colors, requires one to invest some thought since some can be interpreted in several ways. Also, this can become a burden on other users. Furthermore, some users are accustomed to clean and simple display and will be intimidated by multiple colors which will complicate their reading experience. This issue should be considered as a UX matter.


When encountering a website that sticks to a fixed set of colors and symbols, a reader not acquainted with this form might take some time to get used to it. However, once they got it- the experience becomes simpler and easier.


A gear symbol is an example of a globally known symbol, so much so that in many websites and apps it has totally replaced the word "Settings".

For more on the importance on buttons, click here.


Japan as a case study

Since there are so many people of different cultures and languages there, Japan tends to use lots of colors and symbols.

Take trains, for example. There's the large train company JR, and beside it there are many other companies. Some of these companies are local to a certain city/region, and this can make a train ride quite confusing.

And so, it was decided that each company will have its own color. Routes and train cars will be colored according to the company which operates the route. In Tokyo alone (a city of 13 million residents, populated by 20 million people throughout the day) there are nine different companies operate trains

Furthermore, each station has a code. At any stage of the trip, the station and its code are announced so that passengers of all languages will be aware which station is coming up.


Each station has signs showing the current station as well as the next and previous station, all in order to simplify navigation.

Large companies with campuses feature colors and symbols that will simplify the navigation. Since the Japanese have grown used to colors representing companies and destination, Yahoo has marked each direction in the circle (presented below) accordingly in order to make it easier to reach their offices. Just follow the colored line.


Visual language, via colors and symbols, should consider the diversity of its target audience as well as various situations and interpretations this diversity of language, culture and even age may lead to.

Internet websites and uniform User Experience

According to the Israeli Accessibility Act, Israeli internet websites are committed to being accessible to people who need it, and an integral part of the law includes clear visual language of accessibility symbols. Thus, the law created order as well as a uniform, comfortable experience for all users, regardless of their language or age through familiar and easily identifiable symbols.

In order to avoid diversions, uniformity, simplicity and consistency are essential for a positive UX.

As a KM effort, focus on organizing the content in a comfortable, accessible manner.

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