Designing for an International Audience

One of the regular issues you often come across with software, is the old classic of the application or web site that goes wrong when faced with a foreign system. Common problems are applications that fall over when they find they’re running on a localised install of Windows (although I’ve come across applications that hit problems with having a British English install), and there are regular problems caused by especially numeric date formats.

Sometimes though you come across ideas where there is something fundamental at a design level that really doesn’t work when the idea is spread worldwide. Just one such bit of software is CommuterFeed that I came across today. It makes use of Twitter to provide a regularly updated feed of transport problems for large metropolitan areas. Essentially if you find a problem, you send a twitter to the commuter feed user, containing a code identifying the city, followed by a short description of the problem.

Looking up the UK cities, came up with a slightly odd looking list, including major cities like London and Manchester, but then also including weird choices such as Doncaster and Luton. A quick look at the list, and the city code for London (LHR) and you realise why such a weird list, the developers have opted for the IATA airport codes for the major airport for each city. When looking at it from a North American perspective that seems like a good idea – coming across the pond to the UK where many major areas that I might want to get transport information for aren’t listed because they don’t have an airport…

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