Common Mistakes /
Example #9: Language change
Date: 11 january 2004

The case:

Multi-language sites are sometimes hard to visit, especially if they are not written in your language. I was looking for a specific type of switch, thus browsing some tech. sites in Switzerland. Landing on "topd" website was easy (loadtime), but the home page by default was written in german (most of swiss site do so since the majority of swiss citizen are speaking this language). I then looked in the top area of the page to see either a "french" flag or the accronym "fr" to get it translated. Unfortunately, I could not find it. Even after some scanning of the page (lower zone, left bar, etc.), I was not able to figure out how to change it. Luckily, my mouse went close from the welcome button, and there, to my surprise, I could see a roll-over zone where it was possible to switch to french ! 30 seconds lost...

Errors / Recommendations:

If you are making the effort of translating your content in different languages, make sure you get some return from it ! In the top navigation area, include either flags or recognisable accronyms ("ge" for german users won't work, use "de" instead as it stands for "deutsch") for your users to be able to change from one language to another. Some would put that navigational element in the lower part of the site or on the left nav. but I would not do so, since a majority of sites are placing it on the top. Again, do not forget that it's hard to change users habits, especially if you are not "Amazon" or "Google".

Note: if your site is also translated in languages not using western characters, make sure the western characters for changing language remain in their original forms. Imagine you change by error the site language to Korean, how will you do the difference between the "Eng", "De" or "Fr" accronyms if they are translated ?

Screenshots (click to enlarge in a new window)

Home page
Home page
Important note: you can find below some example taken at a certain point of time. It might be that it has changed in between. We are (therefore) using screenshots. Day of "recording" and webadresses are mentioned.