It’s almost like they’re trying to make it difficult…

I got turned onto an interesting post by a German blogger named Nicole Simon, discussing (in a very restrained “vent”) her frustrations in trying to work with applications and online Web 2.0-type sites from North America.

In true blogger fashion her blog was in response to a post by Robert Scoble of Microsoft (who in turn was responding to a post by Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems). The question that kicked everything off was Jonathon lamenting the challenge of, “How do you get you message out to users/clients about your product or technology?”

You want people to adapt technology an learn about it? Well, do it in a way they understand and on a scale they will take notice. Which means: Speak in a language they understand and in ways they will care.


Nicole took the topic down a slightly different, but very relevant, tangent regarding her issues with applications that were designed with the North American audience in mind.

Take for example Google Spreadsheet. I tried it but exactly when hitting the third key it already made me close it again: I use my numeric keypad on the side. And we do use a comma instead of a point for numbers. Does not work in there, is not even configurable. Is that important? Well, probably not for you, reading this in English. For me, it is.

She goes on to cite several other examples including some Microsoft applications – The post is worth a read for anyone who is involved with the creation, development or localization of applications. Additionally she links off to a handful of other posts that were also quite informative (i.e. this link about the challenges of localizing software).

I was surprised by some of the outward hostility towards her thoughts in her comments (by other Europeans no less). She made the valid point about localization not being entirely a language issue though – she seems more than willing to use an application in English if necessary but with the spreadsheets example it was actually the issue of not being able to use a comma instead of a decimal that made the system unusable for her.

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