What's in a Name: Global Considerations for Apps

Enjoyed this article about the assumptions made by programmers (and therefore developed applications) about names:

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

"My system will never have to deal with names from China.
Or Japan.
Or Korea.
Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have 'weird' naming schemes in common use."

Head-wrecking stuff. Actually, it's a little unfair to blame it all on programmers, they aren't the only ones to fall into this trap, and if they have not been educated in the ways of internationalization, there's little point in blaming them. However, there are serious UX implications of these kinds of assumptions. You can read more about this impact on users in the usableapps entry Cross-Cultural Factors Should Be Considered in Enterprise Software UX Design.

"Names may require prefixes to delineate male or female employees, but sometimes there is no place to put these prefixes in the form fields. And some recent immigrants to Europe do not use last names (for example, those from Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan)."

Oracle Fusion Applications offers superb support for global names and how the user wants to see them. That's another post.

Bottom line:

  • Don't allow developers to design your apps, leave that to user experience professionals.
  • Internationalize code so that it is neutral of any one name format and can be localized for regional requirements.
  • Investigate your target market and what regional conventions means for the UX and design accordingly.
For more great information on the global challenges of handling names, and how you might deal with them on the UI and database side, see the W3C's Internationalization article Personal Names Around the World.
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About

Oracle applications global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. For globally-savvy UX people, so that it all fits together for Oracle's worldwide customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!
Profile

Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @localization

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