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I'm on the project as the developer, working for the client, and didn't have time to do the UX portion, so that was farmed out. So, we just got wire frames in from the digital agency and they're pushing back on having the language toggle visible. They want it buried in the burger menu.

When I asked them if they felt it was good usability to force a user to find the language toggle on mobile, they avoided the question.

I've done some research, and asked some UX friends, but I'd like a lot of other opinions.

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  • What was your feedback? – Mayo Aug 12 '16 at 15:36
  • First round of feedback i said we needed it on mobile, then on design it was brought up again. They are pushing to hide it, but the client is backing me. Just want to make sure i'm not out on left field on this. – Mark Handy Aug 12 '16 at 16:21
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If you expect a to get international traffic then it ought to be visible.

One solution may be displaying the language option in the initial login / registration screen.

You may even want to have users explicitly opt in to a preferred language (and then have an animation that shows that the language option lives in the hamburger / gear / whatever).

If you are getting a significant amount of international visitors / people who speak different languages then this option cannot be buried from the beginning.

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  • I have seen a mobile interstitial asking for initial language, which i didn't like when we use to popups on load. French visitors looking like around 20% of all traffic, not a huge amount, but enough. – Mark Handy Aug 12 '16 at 16:42
  • We have different definitions of a lot. I would consider 2-5% to be a lot. The specifics of how to present the language option will have to be determined but I think that it's absolutely necessary to have the option be clearly found - especially when the user first visits the site. It can then be part of that user's settings. – Mayo Aug 12 '16 at 19:45
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The language switch should definitely not be hidden - not on desktop nor on mobile.

If the requirements are to have an international website, you have to have a visible toggle - no matter how many people are coming to the site.

Put yourself in user's shoes: you have to do business with a Japanese company and come to their site. Language toggle is nowhere in site. Would you really go and look for it?

Put the language toggle prominently in top navigation, but somewhere out of the way. Far right is fine. It can be a small icon so it won't take up much screen real estate. Use an icon (like a flag for current language) because not everyone will recognize the name of a current language (or abbreviation) as a language toggle. Also, images are more visible than text - which is very important in this case.

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If you are asking this, your website definitely has a considerable amount of multi-linguist customer or user base. Then, it is preferable to have it as a optional selection while loading your website or the language selection has to sit on your home page. Usually, one/two letters can reveal the language. EN for English. The advantage with this kind of content placement is that your user will never feel that he doesn't belong there.

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  • I'm in Canada, and as we're serving Quebec, we have to offer the site in French. – Mark Handy Mar 13 '17 at 16:11
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If you are expecting a lot of international visitors it has to be visible on the homepage. Usually big brands put it in the header or around main menu area. I disagree with the design agency, it should not be tucked away. However, if you are not expecting that many other multi lingual visitors I suppose it doesn't have to be there, although I must stress a really good user experience comes from providing all the necessary tools for the user to feel comfortable within screens' reach.

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  • Let me add, I'm in Canada, so the site has to be English and French. I found some sites bury this when they don't have a large French audience. With that, as you said, I didn't want to bury a tool that a user may need to access the site. – Mark Handy Aug 12 '16 at 16:21
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I think the burger menu is the perfect place for it. Consider that, for any individual user, that setting is set once, then never needed again. It's important on your first visit, and unimportant for all following visits.

Edit: I don't know whether first-time users will look for it in the burger menu. Some usability testing (even early paper-prototype testing) will reveal some clues about that.

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  • This is why I didn't want it hidden. The designers wanted it there because they are designers. In the end, it's a two letter language code that acts as a toggle. – Mark Handy Mar 13 '17 at 14:23
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If you are getting a lot of foreign visitors it should visible near top left.

If you are getting not too many visitors then the standard I've come to now is the bottom footer section, usually on the right side. This is where people who are used to changing languages will expect to find it.

.> In any event, use javascript to query the user's language settings on their browser and send them by default to whichever language they have set, this will take care of your problem in 95% of cases without you even needing to hope they can see the button.

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  • I've done this before and had it backfire. In that case, users in Quebec, Canada would have their region set as fr-ca, but spoke English. Once bitten, twice shy. – Mark Handy Mar 13 '17 at 14:21
  • I only work on iOS, there the locale is set to their keyboard's language setting not their regional language setting :) I've never tried it in Javascript so I wouldn't know – Albert Renshaw Mar 13 '17 at 17:11

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