I'm upgrading a desktop application that currently displays the currency symbol anytime money values are displayed or printed. A friend of my from the UK told me "Whenever British people see software with the American Dollar Sign ($) it automatically turns them off."

Given the fact that we (developers) only have one shot at making a favorable first impression, wouldn't it make more sense to simply format all money values without a currency symbol?

  • Can you discretely show the current currency, with an option to change that currency to something more meaningful for the user - and put the user back in control. – Roger Attrill Apr 28 '12 at 14:54
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    Can't you make your application read the system locale & display the appropriate currency sign? – dnbrv Apr 28 '12 at 15:14
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    I'd say an application with raw, currency-less money would be much more of a turn off. Even moreso of a turn off if you show me American dollars instead of my currency and I just assumed it was my currency until I changed the settings/tried to purchase! – Ben Brocka Apr 28 '12 at 15:56
  • @dnbv - I can use the system locale. But what about screen shots that I display on my website. Would that be a turn off? – Michael Riley - AKA Gunny Apr 28 '12 at 16:28
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    Why don't you just post screenshots where you show off different currency symbols? Have a $ symbol on one, a € symbol on another, and a £ symbol on yet another. – André Apr 28 '12 at 17:14

Removing formatting runs the risk of making numbers ambiguous. Currency signs help indicate the size of a figure of money, and have obvious importance for anyone doing business internationally. They also help users pick out money data in long rows of numbers, as it's much easier to look for numbers that begin with symbols than try and follow column headings downwards.

When dealing with money, this sort of accuracy is business-critical, so if the value of a payment or debit isn't clear in context, keep the currency signs in and localize your application, either by creating region-specific builds, or allowing users to set a locale. You can usually auto-detect a user's region, then allow users to correct the detection after installation.

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  • +1 I just about posted the exact same answer. You should be able to read localization settings from the computer's regional settings (which will include the currency symbol) pretty readily and thus pull the currency from there -- I would think this would be the best bet and is the most common practice. – GotDibbs Apr 28 '12 at 15:06
  • I whish I had this kind of instant feedback (ux) in 1990 when I first developed my application. This is good stuff. – Michael Riley - AKA Gunny Apr 28 '12 at 16:30

When you display a number that indicates a sum of money, you should always indicate the currency. This should identify the currency being actually used, expressed according to conventions of the locale being used; this locale should be the same as used in the application otherwise. Consult http://cldr.unicode.org for information on localized currency denotations.

Naturally, the number should be localized, too, according to the locale. Mixed notations look suspicious, for a reason.

I know that this answer is very general, but so was the question.

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