Internationalization Gallery

Surveying the variety of ways we provide access to country and language sites...

Yet another gallery. This time I'm confronted with a host of issues, which I'll summarize as a crib sheet for the future:

Enough blather, on to the nit picking...

From Pipermail, your typical pull-down menu:

Like a lot of the interface in the otherwise loved Pipermail, the "View this page in" button is kinda weird. A label that wants to be a button. Can we all chip in and pay for the operation?

The pull-down at 3M:

Mixing American states with countries. I would be castrated if I did this.

On inside pages 3M presents this:

Here we have the old interaction design problem of needing two lists sometimes but not all the time; we'll always present Spanish to the Spaniards, but the Swiss get their choice. This design makes you want to open the second menu all the time, just to make sure there's not a better choice ("what, no American English??"). And then there's the arrows to click to enter the choice. Does the first arrow update the second menu, or change screens? Later we'll see simpler, better solutions...

GE offers a list of regions or a map:

...and when a region is clicked (either the text link or the map) the available countries are presented:

I'm not sure how the 'Overview' helps a user reach their goal more so than the website. But ignoring this complication this is an interesting solution. One might argue there's one or two clicks too many, but the map helps avoid any labeling issues. I'd be curious how this design compares to the label-only designs in usability testing.

On 3Com we get a list of countries on the home page:

(disclaimer: I consulted on this site years ago, and still swoon over Joe Pemberton's attractive visual design.) I like the sorting of countries into regions - it seems easy to scan horizontally then vertically - and the display of languages in their native language. Back when this was built we didn't know how to do it without images (ugh), but the W3C shows us how, below.

On later 3Com pages:

The list has to forego the images, and uses a nice, simple solution of languages in parens next to countries:.

GM also divides the list into regions:

Incidentally, if you're storing this information in a database, it's hard to do this display programmatically unless your data model knows what a region is. Otherwise, you might be stuck with a strictly alphabetical display.

Later, on the English language Canada GM page, a classy way to switch to French:

Is this the GM site again? No, it's Ford!

My usability spidey sense tells me seven regions might be too many. I'd bet ten of whatever your currency is that someone in Bermuda would scan North America or Central/South America to find their home before seeing the last column, Caribbean.

Macromedia also gives you the option to remember your choice for your next visit:

Another way you could design this is to automatically remember the country, i.e. set a cookie. "It depends."

On the IBM home page there's a pull-down:

Interestingly, it's not a full list of countries, with one of the choices leading to a full list. It's fun to reverse-engineer this one. I'm betting they shortened the full list into order to make the home page load faster.

IBM inner pages:

A simple link to a full list of countries, this loads even faster than the abbreviated pull-down list above.

The upper right corner of Wal-Mart's home page:

I cringed when I saw it. "No," I thought, "by 'International' they don't really mean everyone who's not American, do they?" They do. Not all of us in America are like this. Really.

BBC World's Choose your language page:

The combination of map visual associated with labels is interesting. Sadly, one cannot click on the map. Apparently the labels are there for people who may not know just where Central Asia is. Barring the sudden rise of geographic knowledge in the world, I'd say this is actually a categorization/labeling problem disguised as a you-dumb-user problem.

Finally, the venerable W3C list of translated content:

Labels in the native tongue, and it's text, not images. Those guys are good.

That was fun, I really need to do that more often. You should too.