Sunday, July 26, 2015

Internationalization, Currency, etc.

As we think more globally, co companies that have only previously allowed transactions in a single currency realize that they may have to support many. That generally speaking pervades everything. From the user experiences (How do we choose which currency to show our prices in initially?what language should the home screen display?) to all transactions trying to compute value throughout the corporation. Today's sales? Accounting structures? Refunds? Loyalty equivalencies, the list goes on for ever.

Just looking at the UX, it appears that it might be a good idea to use the IP address of the user to determine the language in which to display the opening screens. But that turns out to be as bad an experience as you can imagine.

I am a Brit living in the USA and I travel to Canada. When I am visiting Montreal, and I bring up an ecommerce site, do I really want to see the site en Francais, and the prices in CDN? Not only no, but hell no. That's a kind of throw the device at the wall experience. Je ne parle pas Francais.

I do realize that in the absence of any information, I have just gone to "" and don't have an account. You have to make some kind of a choice.
What are you to do?

  • Show the splash screen in a local language, with front page offers in the local currency?
  • Show a generic splash screen with flags or some other language/country devices and ask me to choose? (And by implication not show any promotional pricing on the splash screen)
  • Do it in the company's own language. "We are British, Damnit" - But don't expect to transact in Quebec.
And then there is the dialect issue - especially in Spanish. In this interview Cristina Saralegui talks about the difficulty of communicating with Spanish speaking peoples in the different countries of Central America. Listen for where she is talking about the word for "beans" and realize that there is no single standard. But please also be careful, the next piece of the clip deals with where things can wrong quite offensively. If you were selling beans online, I wonder what you would say?

Coming back to the IP address, many people have ways of masking their IP addresses anyway. Is it commonplace? No, not yet. But more and more people who wish not to be targeted by advertising, social engineering and other distasteful practices are finding ways to keep their IP addresses hidden. Also handy if you are a visitor in a country with extra surveillance and wish to maintain some degree of unsurveilled access.

Why is this even in an architecture post, you might ask? It is here because the issues around currency and online presence are both horizontal (organization and customer base wide) and deep (throughout the very fabric of the enterprise). It isn't just the purview of a marketing department, but gets to the very essence of the company.