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Your Suggestions for Better Worldwide Usability


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 08:15 AM

It sometimes seems that the Internet is targeted to US citizens, which is really annoying to people from countries who use the Web just as much as US users do.

It's more than date formating and spellings of words. Someone mentioned the use of zip codes, and I realized suddenly that many forms REQUIRE a zip code or else they simply won't work!

Here's your chance to teach everyone what you need and would like to see improved. Please help us learn how to make the Internet a GLOBAL Internet.

Thanks!

Kim

#2 cre8pc

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 11:37 AM

The following are reprinted from another, related thread (which gave birth to this one!)

I hate websites that expect everyone to be from the US. Fine, it's alright if the site is clearly targeted to the US market, but on international sites it's unacceptable. Nothing ticks me off more than a page where you're asked to enter your state and zip code. 

1) We don't have states here in Finland. Fine, the country's divided into different provinces, but no one uses them in addresses anyway. 

2) We put the zip code BEFORE the city name. 

The result? Filling out those forms usually always produces an address that looks pretty weird. 

The most ridiculous example was a site that let me choose my country (Finland) from a list but then asked me to enter the name of my state. First I tried to leave it blank, but I got a response: "Please enter your state." I entered the name of my province, since it was the closest thing to a state we have here, but I got a response: "The state name you entered was too long." DUH!


Obviously a longer date format is a must. E.g. 9/11 is the 9th of November in the UK; perhaps also in Australia. Longer date formats are correct either way round (9th Nov 2002, Nov 9th 2002), but numeric dates only have one interpretation here. 

Spellings can't be dealt with and people must accept the spellings that they read. Optimisation (with an "s") is the most common spelling in the UK although both the "s" and "z" versions are correct. 

It would silly to create different pages for different spellings, so people have to accept the spelling that is on the page and not winge about it. Dates can and should be sorted though.



#3 Grumpus

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 12:48 PM

The major problem with coming up with a solution is a labor to return ratio. Every country has differences in how they do postal codes, phone numbers, currency, and various other things. One is likely to start with the U.S. formats for the simple fact that the U.S. makes up a vast majority of the buying power on the web.

Seems to me that there's a big calling for an out-of-the-box-plug-and-play solution and that someone could probably get pretty wealthy with a simple set of perl scripts (or whatever) that would allow visitors to select their country and modify the form accordingly.

It's not an easy nor profitable concept to deal with on a site by site basis, I don't think...

G.

#4 woodgifts

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Posted 12 December 2002 - 02:38 PM

When I am looking to buy something, it is important to me to know where the company is based, and vital to know what currency is being used. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to determine this information on so many websites.

Dates are definitely a problem in numeric format, especially to someone from a culture where the month-day-year sequence is thoroughly illogical.

My biggest complaint is finding a site that will only ship to the USA, or has a service that is only available to USA residents. Of course, it usually takes several screens before this becomes apparent. Spam email advertising such sites really bugs me, especially since my email address ends .ns.ca !

In short, it is important to realise that the internet is truly global, and if you want to restrict your self to selling to a local audience, please do everyone a favor and make it very clear.

#5 currybet

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Posted 27 January 2003 - 07:45 PM

i can totally understand why you would want to validate every field in a form - but one thing that drives me nuts is if a form is split across two or three HTML pages, and you can't get past the first one without filling in all of the fields correctly.

i was using a form for a job application the other day, and i had to fill in a form that included such information as my second language and my degree of fluency in that language, plus rate my skills on micro$oft word/excel/outrage - before i even got to the information about how to submit my cv / resume details.

...and in fact add to my gripe any site that requires you to submit something like an order form in micro$oft word format.

#6 say

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 04:26 AM

There are a lot of cultures, and each one has different characteristics. Design for GLOBAL internet, from my point of view, requires a lot of work to understand the cultures, for instance, ethnographic studies.

Some commercial web sites are designed focalized on US citizens, and examples of problems are forms, zip codes, and so on. But I think that the problem is not only this: understand the cultures is the key.

International usability, Designing visual interfaces,.. are good points, but are not enough.

In conclusion, my answer would be create a universal data base (or communication, etc) based on experience, books,... to collect all of this information in order to try this goal. For instance, this forum is a good oportunity to create this "universal" usability knowledge data base, HCI patterns is another excellent solution, but we must work a lot.

Thank's,

Sergio.

#7 hape

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 10:49 AM

In my opinion there are two main approaches for international sites
1. You use one language and offer products that can be offered to almost all visitors ( if they understand the language used )
2. You use a multilanguage site with a different menu structure per language and products for the countries where the language is used
( no, not perfect but getting closer )

This can even be split up further by using a tool that maps IP addresses to countries and use this information to display country specific information in the proper manner

Integrating these features requires work and a customer willing to pay for it

A registration procedure ( as menioned above ) asking for the state is not a really complicated task
We always use a 3 step procedure - Select country ( which is preselected using IP mapping ) - if US is selected the next screen displays the states dropdown, if the country is Canada, the provinces dropdown is displayed etc and for other countries where states or provinces are not required it is a plain input field with no required input

International sites will always be a compromise ... but a bit of thinking should go into the development

Helmut

#8 person

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 12:45 PM

My suggestion for worldwide usability is to have everyone use a the same browser. That browser would be able to translate websites from any language to any language automatically. When a surfer goes to a foreign language site, the browser shows the content automatically in the preferred language.

#9 Cindy

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 07:30 AM

We are from the US and used to ship our products internationally. We had to stop for three, big reasons.

1. Customs and Duties-

Things would get hung up in customs, lost in customs, or our customers would be shocked by the duties that were tacked on along the way.

2. Shipping costs and insurance-

The cost for speedy, international delivery can be astronomical in some cases. It just didn't make any economic sense. Shipping insurance either wasn't available to some destinations, or extremely expensive. Of course, most shippers are not timely in settling claims.

3. Credit Card Fraud-

Most credit card processors will not authorize cards from outside the US. This means that the merchant has to take a big chance that the card is not stolen. The frausters know this and take full advantage. When tourists lose their wallets, online retailers lose their merchandise. Foreign credit card fraud was the biggest problem for us.

From our point of view, if we could sell everyone in the US alone, one of our products, then we would be fabulously wealthy and could retire at an early age. Why risk that?

#10 SEO Richard

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 05:24 PM

i was using a form for a job application the other day, and i had to fill in a form that included such information as my second language and my degree of fluency in that language, plus rate my skills on micro$oft word/excel/outrage - before i even got to the information about how to submit my cv / resume details.  


But who on earth FILLS in these forms? I for one - on principle - call myself a, from ALBANIA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, postal code SO1 OFF.

:evil:

In all seriousness, simply having these forms - free trial software say, or a trial subscription to a site - is dumb. How many people fill in information accurately when all they want is the free product, and they couldn't care less about the company?

Isn't that usability? That simply presenting forms like that is all 'wrong'?

:|

#11 peter_d

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 05:40 PM

Agreed SEO Richard. Welcome to the forums, BTW.

Webmasters frequently over-estimate the attention span of their visitors. The web is about immediacy, and unless visitors really, really want what you've got, they aren't going to waste time wrestling with your site, forms or otherwise.

I suspect Albanian General Managers show up a lot in web visitor patterns ;)

#12 SEO Richard

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 05:45 PM

;)

#13 BillSlawski

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 07:36 PM

I'm often a grandmother from beverly hills, (90210) born in 1902, when I'm forced to fill out a form to register to access something.

Welcome, Richard!


Cindy's points about the difficulties of conducting business across borders are excellent, and probably would be a good thread on their own. I'm tempted to move it the the business and marketing forum.

#14 winteromeo

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Posted 21 December 2003 - 08:33 AM

8) What about Singapore? Too small to even divide itself. :roll: We only have postal code, no ZIP no nothing... sigh...

#15 Respree

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 11:12 AM

I think that until the technology evolves to the point where software can be taught to understand cultural differences, we have to remain somewhat flexible in our thinking about the manner in which other cultures present information (e.g. If you visit a friend in Japan, you would be expected to remove your shoes before entering their home).

I envision a day where browsers understand characteristics typical to your geographic location and the cultural differences with other parts of the world. Based on the sites you visit, it will interpet "colors" into "colours" and 12 May 2004 into May 12, 2004, dollars into yen and so forth. Perhaps the technology may even originate from the website, serving different pages depending on their geographic location.

I think it is slowly evolving, but we're taking small, but eventual steps to get there.

For months I was irritated by the time stamp here at the forums (GMT). It always made me think it's the wrong day and and the time stamp was disorienting. Then one day, I discover through my profile (when in doubt, read the instructions :wink: ), I can customize the software to display my time zone -- problem solved. This would be a small example of such a step forward to accomodate a global audience.

Of course, the next logical step would be to detect my IP, then change it automatically...

#16 bwelford

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 04:40 PM

... just like your VCR will now. ;)

#17 Cindy

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Posted 14 May 2004 - 08:26 AM

I think that until the technology evolves to the point where software can be taught to understand cultural differences, we have to remain somewhat flexible in our thinking about the manner in which other cultures present information (e.g. If you visit a friend in Japan, you would be expected to remove your shoes before entering their home). 


Oh, I'm sure the technology is there and ready to be used. Unfortunately, with all the US political hub-bub about "outsourcing," I doubt if you will see those changes anytime soon. Sending jobs, sales, etc. to countries outside the US is a big issue right now and this is an election year. Sad, but true.

#18 fisicx

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 07:44 AM

Trying to take on board all the good ideas here.

Hape suggested:

This can even be split up further by using a tool that maps IP addresses to countries and use this information to display country specific information in the proper manner


This works well unless (as I was) working in Germany but wanted to use ebay. Had a real problem using the UK site as ebay decided that I was German and kept sending me emails in German.

I did experiment with one one site with a redirection index page that used the browser language to load pages in different languages (and associated country specific forms) but it proved to be a right pain to maintain. So gave up and left it in English since most customers were engineers and could understand the language. Maybe not the most usable solution but at least didn't send customers to a page in a language they couldn't read.

#19 test-ok

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Posted 02 September 2004 - 05:49 PM

Please help us learn how to make the Internet a GLOBAL Internet.

I don't believe that will ever happen (not 100 percent global)...You do recall the Tower of Babble??
To many different languages and different meanings for words around the world..IMO Hell it's hard enough trying to keep a civil conversation between a Texan and someone from Oklahoma on the internet. :wink:
We can't do it with the Telephone what makes ya thing it can be done with the internet? :)

#20 gravelsack

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Posted 02 September 2004 - 08:34 PM

I totally appreciate the view that says 'stuff any country where I can't get a positive ROI"

However, puhleeeeease make this really clear on every conceivable landing page so I can hit the back button and go somewhere that actually wants my custom.

#21 Pannu

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 04:27 AM

My biggest complaint is finding a site that will only ship to the USA, or has a service that is only available to USA residents. Of course, it usually takes several screens before this becomes apparent.


One of the biggest irritants Derek; I hope W3C comes up with mandatory compliance for ecommerce sites to... maybe display on the top right hand corner (or a fixed location of the home page (or maybe every page)) something like:

Shipping : Global
or
Services: US

#22 AbleReach

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 05:00 AM

I hope W3C comes up with mandatory compliance for ecommerce sites to... maybe display on the top right hand corner (or a fixed location of the home page (or maybe every page)) something like: 

Shipping : Global 
or 
Services: US

Where would be a logical place that wouldn't add more clutter to every page? Contact or Policies pages would be logical.

One of my pet peaves is sites that don't publish policies. Privacy issues are getting lots of attention right now. I hope that the next push for accountability includes publishing business policies alongside contact information. What are shipping fees, to which countries does an ebusiness ship, what happens if something breaks or a check bounces, and which warm body may I contact if I have questions?

Once I shipped a package to a customer in New Zealand. My policy was that shipping and handling fees over continental US costs would be covered by the customer. She neglected to say that my bank would subtract a processing fee. She knew, but said there would be no fee. I didn't know, and didn't do my own research. The second time around we agreed that bank fees specific to her way of transfering money from outside of the US are shipping and handling that she would be covering. Then she made a play to have me split her customs expense or understate the value of the package by a factor of 20. Ha.

After deciding what business a site is open to, I think that the site should have a responsibility to publish well-researched policies. The complications of crossing international borders makes clear policies more important.

Elizabeth

#23 cre8pc

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 05:00 PM

Here is a fantastic resource for those interested in cultures and how it converts to web design.

Cultural Dimensions and Global Web User-Interface Design: What? So What? Now What?

Abstract

This paper introduces dimensions of culture, as analyzed by Geert Hofstede in his classic study of cultures in organizations, and considers how they might affect user-interface designs. Examples from the Web illustrate the cultural dimensions.


Introduction

The Web enables global distribution of products and services through Internet Websites, intranets, and extranets. Professional analysts and designers generally agree that well-designed user interfaces improve the performance and appeal of the Web, helping to convert "tourists" or "browsers" to "residents" and "customers." 

The user-interface development process focuses attention on understanding users and acknowledging demographic diversity. But in a global economy, these differences may reflect world-wide cultures. Companies that want to do international business on the web should consider the impact of culture on the understanding and use of Web-based communication, content, and tools. This paper contributes to the study of this complex and challenging issue by analyzing some of the needs, wants, preferences, and expectations of different cultures through reference to a cross-cultural theory developed by Geert Hofstede.



#24 BillSlawski

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Posted 03 May 2005 - 01:33 AM

Nice, Kim.

Here's another article that looks at how a metaphor was used to create the primary navigation structure of a site. Tide classified stains based upon where they tended to appear in an American household, and the navigation structure of their site reflected those locations.

In India, the metaphor seemed to confuse users of the site who didn't think about location within a home as a telling factor about stains. A card sorting exercise showed that more thought was given by those potential users of the site as to the difficulty of removing a stain. Add to that the fact that American homes are typically set up much differently than Indian homes...


Metaphors and Website Design: A Cross-Cultural Case Study of the Tide.com Stain Detective

A snippet from the study:

The results of this case study clearly show that care must be taken in website design when metaphors are used as the primary means of interaction. The major question raised by the results is to what degree the lack of congruity between the house metaphor and the removal-difficulty metaphor would interfere with the actual use of the stain detective. A usability test of the Tide.com stain detector with this population would reveal specific cultural difficulties with the metaphor.



#25 KOGorman

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Posted 01 June 2005 - 02:18 PM

So all you international websites and e-commerce sites out there, if you want to corner the market on non-American customers, let your visitors announce their country of origin as the first step to any transaction and dynamically generate the forms based on the standards of that country. So no state line for Finland, no zip code in Taiwan, etc.

If I'm right, you will soon become known as a global-friendly vendor and attract a loyal following of marginalized customers. :wink:

#26 domaink

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 07:45 AM

Its not only about websites. There are advertisers, who send personalised e-mailers leading to a landing page where they ask for zip codes. I have no idea why they spend money in reaching out to some one who can not buy their products/services. I have even seen such ads on google which provides geotargeting facilities. If the product is available only to US citizens, why do they show the ad to peopel from India or any other country and pay for thousands of clicks. Or is it the agency making a fool of the company?

#27 whitemark

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Posted 16 August 2005 - 01:02 PM

I am not able to find where I read it, but they mentioned a research where it was determined that people always preferred to do business with local sites than international ones. Perhaps the reason could be exactly what is being discussed here ...

#28 jyunker

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 04:38 PM

I think the key to creating globally usable Web sites is to fully understand how a non-English speaker views your site. A few tips that I recommend are:

1. Lead with language. If you have links to localized Web sites, these links should be in the relevant language (Deutsch rather than German).

2. Wave the flag cautiously. Flags are often used to denote language and country Web sites, but use them carefully. Some countries have more than one official language. And what flag would you use to represent Spanish?

3. Icons are not universally recognized.

4. Gestures that appear positive in the US (a thumbs up sign) may offend in another culture (and often do).

5. Use of colors, numbers, Americanisms may all confuse or, worse, offend.

The key here is note that every localized Web site is a brand new Web site and not a photocopy of the source language site. Therefore, you should treat it like a new site and understand that it will require a commitment of time and testing.

#29 cre8pc

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 07:04 PM

Welcome to the forums John :wave:

Your contributions here are excellent. I'd like to welcome you and promote your book, LOL

Beyond Borders:
Web Globalization Strategies
and the newsletter as two excellent resources on this topic.

#30 jyunker

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 08:37 PM

Thanks Kim. I'm glad to see you addressing this topic. It's an important issue these days as companies expand overseas. As a bellwether, by the end of this year eBay will be generating more revenues from outside the US than from inside the US.

Also, the World Wide Web Consortium offers a series of resources for more hands-on related Web globalization questions. It's located here: http://www.w3.org/International/

#31 dotdesign

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Posted 02 September 2005 - 04:26 AM

Usability is the measure of the quality as the extent to which specified goals can be achieved with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction by specified users carrying out specified tasks in specified environments.

#32 kensplace

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Posted 02 September 2005 - 07:28 PM

Going to be VERY controversial here, but I would suggest that a IQ test be forced upon USA residents before they use the internet...

That would make the internet a lot more friendly for the rest of the world....

Not getting at anyone in the forums, but 99 percent of all internet problems I get is from people in the USA that seem to have less intelligence than homer simpson.....

Sadly, the UK is also slowly going the same way, I am getting more UK citizens that fall into the USA category, so its a growing problem..............

#33 cre8pc

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Posted 03 September 2005 - 08:40 PM

Going to be VERY controversial here, but I would suggest that a IQ test be forced upon USA residents before they use the internet...


Use the Internet, or build web sites for the Internet? In any case, education is key. I talk to people all the time who have no idea how to really use their computers or keep up with the latest things that a person must know about, like safe practices, privacy, security issues, safe browsing, virus control, etc.

I also think we in the US, for example, need information from folks outside on what we can do to make your Internet experience better. It's like suddenly being aware of special needs end users and accomadating them. Same with someone who speaks different languages or come from different cultures.

This thread has been around for years. It's one of the very first ones I even put on these forums. Whatever practice is perceived as terribly inconsiderate or hard to understand, difficult to use...I hope people use this space to teach us ways to improve :)

#34 howardroark

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 01:11 AM

Don't try to reinvent the wheel by forcing visitors through cryptic navigation. People are impatient. Navigating should be clear and logical. Those flash flash sites that prevent people from seeing links and make you wait for endless animations are just bad. Just my 2 cents.

#35 DavidM

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 01:49 PM

I agree with Woodgifts. Non-US users know the majority of sites are US-based and that's fine, but if they only serve the US, please make that clear.

As far as the UK goes, we have County instead of State and Postcode instead of ZIP code. many sites allow you to enter this free-form so it's not a problem, but I have had occasion where the site serves the UK yet I am force to select a state (I go for new Hampshire obviously).

I also agree with the idea of using longer string dates to make it clear. I have frequently tried to tell US sites that I was born on the 6th day of the 17th month.

#36 profmad

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 06:25 PM

The US has always had an attitude of arrogance and ownership when it comes to the WWW. But a recent article (and I cannot find it for the life of me), says that the predominance of the US on the web has declined significantly, -- as in 20 - something %. In the meantime, China and Japan have grown to where they have surpassed the US, and Europe is also a growing web presence.

So, USA, the humble pie time is here; welcome global representation and the leveling of the playing field!!



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