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In our website, we are providing more than one language choice, so users will be able to use the website if they knew any of these languages.

However, it surprised me that one site I've visited lately had the following "language" list:

Languages Screenshot

You can see, this list has 5 items where the language is English, and three items for other languages. Those 5 items where the languages is English are called, AFAIK, locales. So this is more likely to be called a "locales" list rather than a languages list, from a developer's point of view at least.

My question is that

  • how much is it important to provide such locales? is it worthy to work? take into consideration that providing such locales is such a difficult thing for a website built by startups.

  • Should I care more about localization rather than multilinguality, so that having a perfect localized experience for a specific languages is better than having normal experience for a larger number of languages?

  • Does that depend on the type of the site, e.g social site, business site, support site... etc? If so, what types of sites need/don't need such localization options?

Thanks for advice in advance.

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

For most sites asking for locale information hurts UX by having a more complicated selection. However, there are sites for which this information may be necessary.

Usually locales are interesting when you need to change how you format data to match that locale. For example in one country you may want to show € 1,000.00 while in another € 1.000,00, while in yet another $1 000.00. Locales also determine variants of languages, so while in the USA you may write color, in other English speaking locations it would be 'colour'. If these differences are important to your site (most often I would argue they aren't), it may justify selecting a locale.


Suggestion

However, I would suggest a different way of handling that. I would have someone select the country and language separately, with the language list defaulting to the most common language in that country. This is the way that KLM handles it, and it works really well. enter image description here

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Great pattern, simple and clean. There is of course a scroller in the left list (visible on Windows), and considering that this is a one-time choice, this list is just enough for selecting a country. –  Dominik Oslizlo Apr 26 '13 at 14:59
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I would say : focalize on your target and do not try to please everyone.

Once you showed value to a specific group of people sharing the same currency, language, time and date-format (or wathever is relevant to your website/application) you can ask yourself about "locales".

That said, care about main languages your targeted population is using and be careful on your price page, be sure to find a way to show the prices in the currency your visitor is interested in.

Something else, user experience always depends on

the type of the site, e.g social site, business site, support site

and much more other stuff. It is always about context.

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I agree with JohnGB and would like to add this:
We do the same as the site you saw above. Our users can also select between German (CH) and German (DE). But the language is the same for both (currently).
Internally we have a mapping for the language and for the locales. Since most frameworks support locals out of the box I can display numbers, dates, etc. in the correct format without actually having to do anything. E.g. ASP.NET has a CurrentCulture (Dateformats, etc) and a CurrentUICulture (language). All the formats are handled by ASP.NET.

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