As a Briton, I realise there are cultural differences that I need to consider while testing. For example I have found that citizens from the Indian subcontinent are less likely to directly criticise designs.

It is testing a job hunting website. The testing is quite broad and more interaction rather than concept.

Are there any specific pitfalls I should be wary of while carrying out testing on US/Canadian citizens?

  • 3
    You're a Briton, not a Britain - unless you're not telling us something ;)
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 19:54
  • this is a very broad question. Subject to lots of opinions and discussions. Can you make it more specific, like, which areas of the testing are you interested to get the answer? or an example if it's possible
    – PatomaS
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 1:03

2 Answers 2


Off the top of my head (I'm UK based, but do stuff with US folk on occasion):

  • Thinking that US/Canadian is an audience. It's at least three (US, English speaking Canadian, French speaking Canadian)... probably more.

  • Spelling. Copy in American English can appear misspelled to English speakers, and vice versa. This can obviously affect people's perception of the site - and of your test materials.

  • Word meanings can be very different. Especially slang. If somebody is pissed - are they angry (American English) or drunk (English). A US exercise site might talk about exercising for a tighter fanny. That has a very different meaning in the UK... and probably different exercises.

  • Timezones. When I'm doing usability testing remotely with US folk it's often at times that are very late/early for me - so I'm tired and more likely to make mistakes with moderation or miss things.

  • The tone of copy can be misleading. UK business copy can seem dull or stuffy to US folk. US business copy can seem over familiar or too informal to UK folk - and so on.

  • Numerous issues around cultural norms (e.g. mentioning religion in business contexts sends very different signals to UK and US folk.)

  • I've generally found that it's easier to persuade random folk in coffee shops to get involved in ad hoc usability testing in the US than in the UK... but that be more to do with the particular bit of the US I was in (see first point :-)

Finally, while there isn't a great deal on the US and UK differences in particular, you might find The Handbook of Global User Research edited by Robert Schumacher to be a useful read to highlight the kind of issues that pop up with international user testing.


The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are all individualistic countries, thus participants in usability tests should behave with similarly.

The Culturally Customized Website (Singh & Pereira, 2005) does note a couple important differences:

Targeting Canada may mean a secondary target of the French in Canada. (preface)

Even though the United States and Britain are considered culturally similar, English usage differs slightly between these two countries. (chapter 2)

The book also shows that the three countries are similar on the following traits:

  • Low on uncertainty avoidance (the importance of predictability, structure, and order vs. willingness for risk-taking, less structure and ambiguity). The three countries are toward the latter, with the UK being the lowest.
  • Mid-low on power distance (belief in authority and hierarchy vs. power being distributed). The three countries are toward the latter.
  • Mid-high on masculinity-feminity (belief in achievement, assertiveness, and ambition vs. nurturing and caring for others). The three countries are toward masculinity (the former).
  • Low on high-low context (information embedded in the context or internalized vs. straightforward, detailed messages). The three countries prefer the latter.
  • 3
    Can't help but comment. I haven't read the study you mention, but relating masculinity vs femininity to achievement, assertiveness and ambition vs. nurturing and caring for others, is also a cultural association.
    – Yisela
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 20:15
  • 1
    @yisela you are correct. In this case, the definition is more important than the label.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 13:53

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