2 Euros for a conference or Why you should be careful about language settings
When you want to do business with ‘international’ or have an application used by others than just in your language realm, it is not about translating everything for example to German but about the small details which one frequently does not know about and makes mistakes in.
Today: The separators comma and point for numbers.
As you know, I like conferences because they are usually the easiest way to get to know people. As such I was interested to see that there are some search oriented conferences coming to Germany (I am an Analytics and Logfile addict of course), and had a quick look at the price of the "Emetrics Marketing Summit". And to my surprise, the regular price is just 2 Euros, great!
What happened? Obviously somebody native english worked with this for the regular price, and a non native, non aware editor did the editing for the rest. Because all the other prices are correct – at least to my eye. Well kind of, because having the Euro in front of the price is also specific to the dollar.
Different to English, where the separator for thousands is comma and the decimal point is a point, for me the decimal separator is a comma and the thousand separator is a comma. Which is why also the so called CSV files (=comma separated values) is a semi-colon separated file in German usage.
1,1 € or Euro
Do you want the brain of your customer to signal "Error!!!" on your prices?
Application which require me to enter numbers the english way run against two things. nearly 4 decades of training how my mind works. Even reading these figures is confusing in a way – because the brain is trained to notice exceptions, it is additional effort to process this number. Do you really want customers to pay extra attention with a "warning, something is wrong!" sense to prices?
What I read out of "We have 300,000 users!"
My brain does not parse this as three hundred thousand but 300 at first. After a split second though I get the addition. Although you may think different, this is preferred over using the number 3000000, because that takes more time to get the information, like in see, think, get annoyed and using the mouse to count the numbers.
The effects of that are deeper than you might think.
- How do you enter your numbers?
I would guess with your numeric keypad. Have a look at it – what do you see next to your zero?
If it is a point, imagine what it feels like to have a comma there and be required to enter the list of numbers in the table above. The reason why the separator is there and not both point and commas is simple: Everything processing numbers like spreadsheet has special, automated formatting to your value.
In examples from the currency formating tab from Excel
- #.##0,00 € means: Format the number with two decimals and separator per thousand with trailing Euro sign.
- [$$-409]#.##0,00 does the same with American Dollar style – notice the dollar in the front and not back
- [$€-1809]#.##0,00 this is the format for Euros in Ireland notice the front Euro
There is no special number assigned to the first formatting, because these infos come from a German Excel and it would be weird to the eye to see this kind of formatting – which is why Microsoft only displays these information with other currencies. In the file of course it gets marked with "Germany".
- How do you order one and a half?
If I want to order 1.5 times of something, I will enter by default 1,5. This already lead to many cases of "do you want to order 1500 items" – which is why a confirmation page before sending the order is so important.
- How do you copy and paste values?
Copy and pasting values between applications is a very frequent operation. If I want to work with numbers or sheets I get from others, I need to c&p those values. If there is no difference between the display of a number (1,000,000 but internally the value is 1000000), this will not work.
Why Google and Microsoft rule the market.
"But I did not know about it! Now it is too complicated to implement." If this is your answer, I am sorry but you did not do your homework. It is also one of the reasons why so many applications never really make it out of the small American market and why companies like Google and Microsoft are so successful over here: Besides the reqally superb localized versions of everything Microsoft (I know, due to the size of the German speaking market), Google is one of the few competitors to ‘get’ it.
Best example: Google Spreadsheet. I dismissed the first version immediately because the numeric keypad problem is one of the first things you test on such an application. And low and behold it was useless due to expecting the numbers separated by point. But quickly this turned and now Google Spreadsheet is the default place to have an online spreadsheet.
In both cases there are large companies behind these efforts, but honestly: you can learn a lot from them and apply it to whatevery you are making.
(Speaking of learning from each other – could the Windows Live Writer Team please pay a visit to their colleagues and make sure I can set a default language per blog in regard of spell checking? Thank you.)
Do you have other stories around these separators? Please share. :)
Tags: european view