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International Pitfalls for American Webmasters

11:50 am on Jun 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Even for websites in English, there are a number of pitfalls I've stumbled on.

1) The word "billion" means 1,000 million in the US, but 1,000,000 million in the UK and Europe.

2) Numerical date formats are different, with much of the world using date/month/year but the US style being month/date/year. Very confusing for the first 12 days of every month!

3) The US style is to separate every three digits of a large number with commas, but some countries alternate commas and periods. I still don't have this one straight — how does the alternating style show where a true decimal starts?

4) From what I've heard, it is highly offensive in Japan to offer a radio button that is already checked by default. It's relatively offensive to me, too, but lots of American sites do it all the time.

What other tricky international areas have people noticed?

12:07 pm on June 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

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This is only the tip of the iceberg.

We recently discussed one aspect of Internationalis(z)ation for Far Eastern markets which raised the point of ESL (English Second Language) vs English being the first language.


12:24 pm on June 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

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In Italy

One "bilione", written with only one L = 1.000 millions (one thousand millions)= one "miliardo".

One million = 1.000.000 (un milione)

One Euro = 1.936,27 Lit.
(Onethousandninehundredthirtysix and 27 cents).

Date (today is June 29, 2001 = 29.06.2001)

Time: official timetable is on 24 hour basis.

02.00 p.m. = 14.00

4:52 am on July 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

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In Japan:

Standard form for Japanese dates can be confusing without a degree in Japanese History. Dates are based on eras, each representing the reign of an emperor.

Meiji Era (1868 - 1912)
Taisho Era (1912 - 1926)
Showa Era (1926 - 1989)
Heisei Era (1989 to present)

So if your birthday was February 1, 1967, in Japanese date format it would be Showa 42 / 2 / 1 (the 42nd year of Showa, or 1967). Today's date is Heisei 13 / 7 / 2

However, dates in Japan can also be written in Western standard format and be understood. They generally tend to use the US format of Month/Day/Year.

International Date Format
Has anybody tried implementing the ISO 8601 date standard?
I recall that even [url=www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-datetime-970915.html]the W3C[/url] had been knocking this idea around. I have been thinking of using this as a standard on my international sites.

24-hour clocks used for all train and bus schedules, and other printed timetables, but when speaking you wouldn't say 15:00, you'd say 3 o'clock in Japanese of course


10:09 am on July 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Other problems can arise simply by thinking locally by default and not internationally. Some examples that come to mind are-

1) providing a two/three letter field in an address form for State
2) not providing an "other" field when there is no suitable option from a dropdown menu
3) assuming the first three numbers in a phone number are the area code
4) using incorrect standards for international phone numbers

Basically I think the problem is thinking loccaly and not internationally. It takes a little effort to open the shutters, but it is worth it.

<-----------Woz quickly checks his sites for oversights