October 26th, 2007
I was strolling in Manali when I saw these signs.
It was on a lunch house, and typical of tourist places it served everything from regional specialities (punjabi, gujarati) to chinese. In particular the punjabi thali and gujarati thali, was written in punjabi and gujarati script respectively.
At first glance it seems very obvious. If your target audience is punjabi, it makes sense to write the punajbi dish name in punjabi script. But the downside is that some people who love punjabi food but can’t read punjabi script won’t be able to understand.
Let’s look at what some global websites are doing to solve this problem. We have to keep in mind that there are other constraints when it comes to web. To keep it simple lets say we want to provide a list of languages a site is available in. So that a user who wants to see the site in that language can select the required option. The following image shows how youtube does it.
Say you go to a japanese cyber cafe and you see this. And if you want to see an english site, to choose the english option, you have to know an english speaking countries flag. Easy for the person of that country, not so for someone else. Still youtube has at least tried to solve the problem to some extent.
Now lets look at BBC’s world service site. Now they could have put each language in that respective script. So that people who can only read that script could have chosen that option easily. But that would have meant that all those people who don’t have those font-packs installed on their machines would have seen some thing like this (????? question marks for non existant fonts). Hence BBC has put the language name in the respective script as an image. So that everyone sees everything, no question marks. As well as the user who knows only one language still can choose his language. Then why they have written that language again in english? So that everyone can know which languages it is available. Since this is just the landing page, and this being the world service page, I think the aim of this page is to show that it is truly global. Which the language names written in english does.
This is what I call good design.