You will all have visited websites that present their content in more than one language – and they allow you to select the language in some way. Right now I’m struggling to find examples, but here are some of the more common options:
1. A special front page presenting language options
2. A series of flags on every page (or at least primary pages)
3. A series of translated names with separators (e.g. English | Francais | Deutsch )
4. A drop-down box
5. Some kind of ‘world’ icon with a link saying something like ‘Change Language’ (usually in English)
6. Like option 3, but using ISO codes (e.g. EN | FR | DE )
Because this is a vital usability issue, I would have expected to see many erudite blogs and usability articles about it – however, after a protracted bout of surfing, I only found one article that was any use (mind you, it’s a good one, particularly comment 29): Indicating language choice: flags, text, both, neither?.
I referred to this article when designing the EntroPay user interface, and ended up using option 3 from the above list, for these reasons:
Option 1: interferes with user flow, especially when trying to ‘funnel’ users through a sign-up process.
Option 2: You try getting a Mexican to click a Spanish flag to see a page in their language. ‘But I’m not Spanish, I’m Mexican, and proud to be Mexican! Goddamn gringo reactionary website, etc.’
Option 4: If a drop-down box defaults to ‘English’ and you only read Korean script, you will not see the Korean word for ‘Korean’ anywhere on the page unless you start clicking at random.
Option 5: Same problem as option 4.
Option 6: Useful if space is at a premium, but the elegance breaks for non-Roman alphabets.
I had to revisit the issue recently as the list of languages offered by EntroPay is soon due to expand, and so I again toyed with the other options above, along with some other icon-based solutions, in order to save some space on-screen.
However, at the end of the day, I find that I still believe option 3 is the most usable and sensible way to go, so I’ll just have to move some nearby content elsewhere instead.
Post comments with any unusual or innovative language selection methods you’ve found!