We localize some of our products (data mining, statistics, graphics,
quality, science ...) into major languages, but we also sell our English
product in lots of smaller markets, and we try to design the English product
in a reasonably international way up front. Our most international products
are on Windows as the primary platform, but some cover Unix and other os's
So as part of our regular development process and as part of our
localization work, we ask our local offices around the world (and sometimes
our customers!) whether there are things at the level of metaphors, colors,
etc that are not understood or are unnatural or even offensive in their
locales. What we almost always hear is that there are no significant
problems in this area.
While I'd like to credit our development process with having totally
conquered this problem (or perhaps producing UIs bland enough to put
everyone to sleep), I have concluded that with a reasonable sense of I18N
issues, that the remaining theoretical differences have largely gone away,
primarily due to the spread of standard GUIs worldwide. At least this seems
to apply to the types of users we have.
If this is not so, then how does one uncover trouble spots short of
validating UIs in 100 countries?
From: Suzanne Topping [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 1999 1:18 PM
To: Unicode List
Subject: Re: Internationalization--the next generation
You are exactly right. And I think the colors and icons are even some of the
easier issues to deal with. In theory, you can find out what mailboxes look
like (generally) in various areas of the world. Also, color associations are
pretty readily accessible, if you want to hunt them down.
Some of the tougher issues are metaphors like using a desktop rather than
drawers and folders, or the way certain cultures move their eye across a
screen. Westerners tend to look at a screen the same way we read a page; top
to bottom, left to right. Other cultures obviously read differently, and
therefore look at a screen differently. Should dialog items therefore be
moved around so that they are more logically located when localizing to a
right-to-left reading culture?
It's a tricky business. None of our internationalization or localization
processes are set up to deal with these issues. (Let alone are our American
corporations willing to pay for the changes!)
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