Category Archives: User Experience (UX)

Using Location to Assume User Language

My first language is English. I live in Uruguay, and while I’m comfortable and nearly fluent in Spanish, sometimes I’d rather use a website in English.

It is EXTREMELY common for a website to see the location of my IP address and assume they should send me a page in Spanish. This is perfectly fine, because everyone in Uruguay speaks Spanish. Not everyone has it as their first (or preferred) language given the number of immigrants here (especially from Brazil), but everyone speaks at least SOME Spanish here.

The other thing that sites may use is the language setting of your web browser. This is also a reasonable approach, although less common. I have one computer set to English and one set to Spanish, and I’ll sometimes get different versions of a site depending on which computer I use. This is mostly OK, but there are an unreasonable number of computers that have the language set to English (the most common default) even though the users don’t prefer English. There are also computers used by multi-lingual households, so using the computer’s language setting is an assumption at best, and probably less accurate than using someone’s location.

Of course, the right thing to do after you’ve made an assumption about the user’s language is allow them to change it. Typically this is a link or button somewhere along the top of the site. Although sometimes this will be a flag icon, that’s less than ideal when you’re dealing with countries that have multiple languages (Belgium, for example). People from that country have learned to adjust, and can pick the French, Netherlands, or even German flag if they need to.

The problem comes when a website doesn’t give someone the chance to change the language they’re viewing. Not only are geolocation services not 100% accurate, but just because you are IN a place doesn’t mean you are OF a place.

Sure, auto-translation tools are nice, and they get you 80% of the way there, but they rarely understand context, words with multiple meanings, regional word usage, or any of the other Human nuances. Maybe some day, but not today. So it’s important to allow a user to select their preferred language.

Sometimes it’s easy to change the language manually by hand-editing the URL. For example, these urls:

Can easily be changed to:

Where it gets really ugly, and I’ve seen this with media/streaming sites more than anything else, is when you deliberately visit a page in a specific language, and you are force-redirected back to the language you didn’t want.

The only hope for sites like that is to use a proxy server. Or close the browser tab. You should never force a language on a visitor if your site is available in other languages.

And if you find a site with this bad behavior, please send them a message letting them know the error of their ways. Maybe they’ll eventually learn.


Signing Up for Uber Eats in Another Country

Just want to mention my UX ordeal here – I basically had to hack my way through an app to order food.

I’m soggy and rained on (torrential pour today) and don’t want to leave the Airbnb, so I decided to sign up for Uber Eats, which I’ve never used before, and have food delivered. I’m in Mexico City but I live in Portland, Oregon.

I signed up using the web app because I wanna look at food pics on a big screen. I used my Google Voice number because I could validate it via text-to-email (I don’t get reliable phone service here on my network – Ting). Filled the cart with a huge order, entered my credit card, and when I clicked “place order” I got an alert that my phone number is not valid for ordering and I have to edit my account and add a valid phone number. The web app doesn’t let you edit your phone number. So I installed the mobile app and signed in. THAT let me edit my phone number and luck of all luck the validation text went through. I went back to the web app on my PC. Logged out and back in and my phone number showed up. Order was still in my cart. THEN I was able to order some food.

And now I’m getting Uber’s marketing emails in Spanish.

So yeah, sign up for your apps BEFORE you leave the country.