Designing Internationally?

I think I speak for most when I say, designing websites is getting a little too complicated. In the beginning of the class, I thought web design was simple; come up with a layout and then design. However, I had no idea that:

1. It takes a program to create a website


2. Websites are not just about looking pretty

There are principles in design as I soon learned. There are rules that designers must follow, from the color to the context.

After reading How Fluent is Your Interface? my mind opened up. When I thought of designing for the web, it never occurred to me that some designers have to think internationally or globally as well. It never occurred to me that user and in Europe or Africa might decide to visit my website and therefore not only as a designer do I need to follow the principles of design but also the ethics of international design.

What do I Mean?

According to the reading, interface designers must be aware of the following:

  • Text
  • Number, Date and Time Formats
  • Images
  • Symbols
  • Colors
  • Flow
  • Functionality

Ask yourself this question, when was the first and last time that you visit and international site on purpose? To answer that question myself, never. I never thought to visit an international site or even design a site internationally. However, there are programmers and designers who convert United States websites to international websites and those who create websites overseas to be translated in the United States.


When designing a website internationally, the designer must be able to translate the text into the language of that particular country. Sounds simple right? I love the example the reading uses, an Indonesian student was hired to translate work for a U.S. company but did not understand the word “software” and instead translated it as “underwear.” It is important for those who are translating websites to become familiar with words dealing with technology and computers. However, these words must be basic that everyone, especially users will understand. Designers should avoid jargon. Jargon are words that are used in a particular industry such as medicine jargon, engineer jargon. If a designer or a programmer is translating jargon, they might not understand what it means. For example, the reading uses the word “grok,” which is a slang word in America that means “to understand completely.” I am from America, I did not even know what that meant. However, I do not work in that industry where that jargon is used.

What the reading does not mention, which is important is grammar and spelling. The words that need to be translated has to be spelled correctly or it will translate wrong.

The most interesting part of the reading was the images. In America, it already takes a lot of time to think and create the perfect logo that user’s will be able to recognize. Well, how about if a business logo was of a garbage can to represent a garbage company? In Europe, a image of a garbage can signifies a mail box. Even a name of a company has to be translated properly in another language. Uno in Spanish means one. However, in Finnish it means garbage. ¬†When thinking and creating an image and product name for a company that will also spread internationally, designers must be very selective.

I think all the rules for designing and then the rules for designing internationally is beginning to be a little too much and is sucking the fun right of designing for the web. Unless one has a knack for foreign language then go for it, but it is bad enough that as a future designer, I have to remember what colors work well together, make sure images are symmetric and balance.

I think I will stick to designing for the United States.

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