Saturday, 31 December 2011

Browser Language

By Browser Language I do not mean the Browser User Interface Language. I am referring to the Browser Preferred Language for displaying Pages. I will use the acronym BL to mean Browser preferred Language for displaying pages.

An internationalised website will have pages in multiple languages. These pages can be displayed according to BL eg If BL is Korean then the website will send it's Korean pages to the browser.

With most browsers, the BL can be set in the preferences and can be set independent of the language settings of the OS. Some browsers do inherit their BL from the OS language setting.

This ability to change the BL has so much potential that few are aware of. Google are switched on to this potential. Google maps, if embedded correctly, will automatically adapt to BL. You can try it out for yourself. Visit and you will see a Google map of Loughborough. Now change the BL in your browser preferences and refresh. You will see menus displayed in the BL you chose. If you had chosen Japanese as your BL you would also see some place names transliterated into Japanese.

This ability for the user to change BL is a good thing, a very good thing. But... This function is buried down in the preferences. It is my experience that few people are aware that the BL can be changed and even less are aware of the possibilities this opens up.

My recommendation to all the browser manufacturers is that the BL preferences should be made manifest by bringing them up front. Put a BL graphic in a prominent position on the browser window so that it is always visible. This BL graphic will serve to inform the user of the current BL and allow the user to change the BL (eg a popup BL selection menu).

Such a BL graphic will:
  • Raise user awareness of BL and the ability to change BL
  • Encourage users to explore sites that adapt according to BL
  • Encourage web developers to incorporate content, widgets and features that are BL adaptive
Here is an illustrative story. About a year ago, a Chinese person told me he had a problem when viewing some Google maps. His problem was that the map info was displayed in Chinese but he wanted to see the info displayed in English. This problem occurred when he viewed these maps from his own computer and he could not work out how to view the info in English.

I explained to him that what he was experiencing was not a problem but rather a symptom of a very powerful feature. The feature being Google maps auto adapting to BL. His Computer had a Chinese OS and the browser he used had it's BL set to Chinese. I told him how to change his browser's BL and then, of course, he could view the Google map info in any of the many supported languages.

A manifest BL graphic would have made it obvious what was happening and would have enabled him to explore and appreciate Google maps BL adaption and BL adaptive websites in general.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Microblog Space (character) Saving

Take the following example two lines of text:
  • Fruit: apples, pears! Veg: cabbage, onions. Cars? Ford; Mini
  • Fruit:apples,pears!Veg:cabbage,onions.Cars?Ford;Mini
Line 1 has 60 characters and line 2 has 52 characters. I reduced the number of characters by using full-width punctuation characters. These full-width forms start at Unicode codepoint U+FF01. Using full-width forms I can dispense with the space character. So, for example, instead of colon + space I use full-width colon only. For microblog posts small space savings like this can be very useful.

I could, and sometimes do, use OSX Character Viewer to obtain these full-width punctuation characters. When I am microblogging in English I toggle to the Simplified Pinyin Input Method to write the full-width punctuation. This may sound complicated and time consuming but with a little practice it is easy and quick and does not disrupt the flow of writing. There is one exception character. When I type full stop whilst in the OSX Simplified Pinyin Input Method the ideographic full stop is produced rather than the full-width full stop. That is what I would expect and still saves me a space character. So, when I am microblogging I would write the example text, above, as:
  • Fruit:apples,pears!Veg:cabbage,onions。Cars?Ford;Mini
Sometimes I use my OSX Japanese Input Method for microblog punctuation. The one difference is that when typing comma the ideographic comma is produced. i.e.
  • Fruit:apples、pears!Veg:cabbage、onions。Cars?Ford;Mini
English is my primary language and, as such, my examples are in English. The same space saving technique can be used for any language/script that uses the standard ASCII punctuation e.g. Korean & Russian

My setup is OSX Lion with the standard Input Methods. I have setup a keyboard shortcut (Control + Space) to quickly toggle between a pair of languages. When microblogging my toggle pairs are English & Chinese or English & Japanese. Your setup may well be different to mine and you may well get different results to me. Whatever your setup, you will be able to use the Chinese or Japanese space saving punctuation characters.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

ZARA Website

Interesting! And the sort of thing I would do. ZARA's website adapts the Social Media links displayed according to the Region. ZARA caters for multiple regions and for the majority displays a link to their Facebook

There are some regions for which it displays a link to that region's Social Media:

China 中国: Zara's China landing page is and the displayed Social Media link is Sina Wēibó 新浪微博

Russia Россия: Zara's Russia landing page is and the displayed Social Media link is Vkontakte ВКонтакте

With their Japan landing page it appears that the intention is to link to a Zara twitter as indicated by the displayed text on The link does not though resolve to a Zara Twitter or indeed any Twitter.