Monthly Archives: January 2012

Even Apple Messes Up Sometimes

You have to respect Apple. They have excellent products that are known worldwide for their quality and ease-of-use. Part of that ease-of-use comes from their commitment to producing internationalized, world-ready products. However, even the best companies and employees make mistakes.

Recently I purchased a new iMac 27″ computer for my family. Of course, they don’t believe it is for them since I spend the most time using it. But I’m going to stick with my story…it’s the new family computer. Anyway, I immediately noticed that Apple is pushing their iCloud service. During setup and first run of things like iPhoto, I was prompted to choose whether I wanted to use iCloud for backups, etc.

Of course, I had to try out the iCloud service, so I entered all my personal details — name, account id, etc. The service works as expected, and I have nothing interesting to report on that.

To make iCloud clearly available and visible, Apple puts the iCloud service settings into the System Preferences application.

icloud settings

Clicking on the iCloud icon brings up the iCloud settings of course. Again, not much to say there. You have all the typical iCloud-able apps to choose from: Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Photo Stream, etc. However, I did quickly notice that iCloud had a little trouble with my name. Instead of showing my full name as John O’Conner, the iCloud app prominently displayed it as John O'Conner. Oops.

Icloud name

I admit that this is not the first time I have seen my name displayed in this way. Web forms sometimes mistakenly store my name using character entity references. Apparently the apostrophe sends bank and medical systems into fits of confused stupor. However, I’m surprised that it trips up Apple in this way.

It just goes to show you that even some of the best companies can make mistakes with how they handle and display text data. It’s common to normalize text when putting it into a database. However, I don’t think a character entity reference is the right thing to put into your db. If you do, you certainly should remember to decode it when you display it to your user.

 

Providing a Language Selection List

Lang listThe questions pop up often enough in internationalization circles so I’ll address them here:

1. how should I localize a language selection list?
2. how should I sort it?

Localized Language Lists

Customers use a language selection list to change languages. You must assume that the currently selected language is inappropriate for some reason. One possible reason is that the user cannot read the page content. This means that a localized language list that displays all target language options in the language of my current page probably won’t be understood. For example, let’s pretend that I speak English but am on a Japanese web site. Presenting me with language options that include ” 英語” will not help me if I don’t read Japanese. I can’t be expected to know that those characters mean “English” to a Japanese person. This option is unhelpful. What is helpful?

The right way to represent any language selection list is to display languages in their own language and script. For example, English should be English, Spanish should be Español, Japanese is 日本語, etc. You don’t need to localize this list into every language. One list using the target language’s own language and script for each language choice is both sufficient and optimal. This guarantees that I’ll be able to read and select my target language regardless of the current page’s language setting. This is the most universal option you have, and I consider this a best practice for creating language selection lists.

Sort Order

I don’t know how better to prepare you for my answer…so here it is. The actual sort order is less important than consistency. Two points make this obvious to me:

1. if your customer wants to choose a different language, they probably don’t speak the current one, and the current language’s sort rules won’t be particularly useful anyway.
2. you can’t accurately guess what language rules you should use because you don’t know which language the user will select.

With these points in mind, I don’t think the sort order matters. Correct linguistic sorts for this list are not critical, and anything you choose will be inconvenient to someone. For this reason, I think you simply have to choose a sort order and be consistent every time you show the language list. My suggestion is that you simply order the list in U.S. English order if you consider U.S. English to be the base language of your product. If you consider your base language to be something else, use that. My point is that it doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll be tempted to provide this list in the sorted order of the language of the current page or host OS setting. Sure that’s an option, but it’ll be incorrect more often than correct when it’s needed. Save your sanity. Choose an order. Be consistent. Don’t worry about localizing this order.

So this sort issue is bothering you still? You just can’t accept it? Ok, that’s fine, but consider this. The solution I’ve described is already used by some pretty big players. Since I just finished evaluating Facebook, let’s use it as an example. Regardless of which localized site I visit, regardless of my browser language preferences, Facebook shows the same list of languages in the same sort order. They don’t even use a US English sort. Their choice is something different, something almost like a US English sort, but maybe using the Romanized version of the target language? Here’s an example — Japanese is sorted with other languages that start with an “N” sound. The Japanese pronunciation is romanized as “nihongo”. So, “nihongo” starts with an n and sorts with other languages that start with n? I can’t quite figure the sort rules out BUT that’s my point…it doesn’t matter. Its consistent every time I go to the page, and it works. Here’s a shot of that Facebook page:

Fb lang selection

Conclusion

Providing a language selection list for your multilingual product is a great idea. It lets customers conveniently change the UI language of the product. Don’t over-think this problem. You can provide this feature without spending countless hours of debate. Follow my suggestions:

  1. Provide a single language selection list in which each entry is translated into the target language and script.
  2. Choose a sort order, any order. Be consistent in displaying this order.

Have a suggestion or comment? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

 

 

 

Job Post: Localization Engineer in San Jose, CA

Please comment on this post or email me if you are interested in this localization engineer position. I’ll put you in contact with the recruiter.

Direct from the recruiter:

The requirement is for a Localization Engineer in San Jose working for one of the leading Web Commerce companies.  They are looking for more than the typical Localization Engineer as they need someone who has done some programming, not just scripting.   I have attached a description and also listed below some things the manager said they have been missing in the candidates so far.

What I’ve been missing so far in candidates is

-        Experience with web localization (more a focus on i18n engineering, but then without real coding skills), and enterprise localization tools (e.g. WorldServer)

-        Significant modern coding skills (going beyond a simple VBA macro or Perl script), e.g. ability to write some Java application, understand/fix/enhance existing code, or a simple plug-in against a documented SDK (more than just passive knowledge of Java, etc)

-        Ability to clearly articulate concepts or thoughts, describe processes

 

If this sounds like a good fit, I can email you more details. Good luck!

//John

 

Job Post: Sr International Product Manager

Recently a recruiter let me know about this position. If you are interested, please email me (john at joconner dot com) or leave a comment. I’ll send you all the contact information and details. Or of course, you could just go straight to the web site yourself…either way. But, in my opinion, it always helps if you have an internal lead!

Here’s the job description, straight from the internal recruiter:

We are currently looking for a Sr International Product Managers for our Cobalt (www.cobalt.com ) office in the Seattle area.

The selected candidate will lead the efforts around globalizing our core automotive platform and requires

- Strong internationalization, globalization, and localization experience
- International rollout and deployment experience
- Experience in a B2C environment
- Experience working across countries and cultures

This is a FULL TIME with benefits that start day one.

Good luck!

//John