An Xiao Mina’s latest post about seat numbers in China is a great example of how design that attempts to understand the user’s world matters. She explains in her post why there is no 12E in this photo:
Contrary to intuition for English speakers, seats 12F and 12D are next to each other on the train. Why no 12E? After some time, I realized it’s because the letter E sounds like the number 1 in Chinese.
Without awareness of how the letter E sounds in this context, any designer (Chinese speaking or non-Chinese speaking) could easily overlook this very minor detail that would great confusion for a person who is looking for their seat.
Minimizing unintentional confusion in design requires attention to the details. This is why ethnography and user studies are important.