Re: Internationalization--Standard Icons

From: Geoffrey Waigh (
Date: Thu May 27 1999 - 15:09:34 EDT

Markus Kuhn wrote:
> A lot of work has been put into the international standardization of
> various icons such as buttons on consumer equipment or various warning signs.
> You are most likely well familiar with them (right-pointing black triangle
> = record, black square = stop, white circle = off, etc. on your VCR) without
> ever having heard about the relevant standards in this area:

That's true, and given a relatively small number of manufacturers, it is
possible to get most people to follow the standard. However it doesn't
mean that the public likes it, because that which comes out of standards
bodies has a less than perfect correlation with usability. Abstract
pictograms sometimes make sense and sometimes become something people
have to memorize. Granted if everybody has to memorize the association,
then it is not showing favour to a particular culture, but all you have
done is moved the localization tables out of the software and into the
manuals/education system.

> Much more important than localizing graphical icons is to come up with a
> standardized set of internationally acceptable icons that helps to avoid
> having to localize too many aspects of GUIs.

As I mention above, I don't think the acceptance will be outside the
committee. You mention ISO 8601 and in North America at least, it is
seldom used. Similarly the international notation for telephone numbers
is so unaccepted that the printers who did my business cards contacted
me so they could correct the "mistake" - I had to explain I was technically
one of the few people in city who had it "right." Of course if most
of the population thinks otherwise am I ahead trying to foist it on them?


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