my world of work and user experiences

September 30, 2009

Cliquez Parcourir pour télécharger le ficher?

Filed under: New world of work,Usability — Tags: — frederique @ 23:31

Currently I am working for an American multinational. I am based at the headquarters for the international part of the business, which are in The Netherlands, and the other half of my team is in Chicago. Because we are one company, the intranet and collaboration environment that binds us together is in English. The idea being that we can all understand and use English, the lingua franca of the modern age and the obvious choice for a company with its main headquarters in the Chicago area.

However, are all my colleagues in that multinational quite as comfortable with English as all that? I am afraid not…

Language barrier
The language barrier may be underestimated by the people in America, as well as by the people in The Netherlands. The Dutch are not native speakers, but they can handle English just fine. After all, it is a small country and a “small language”, so everybody is at least familiar with English. But this is not the case for, for example, Russia and France.

In the project I am doing with the Russians, it is an ongoing struggle to try and understand each other. My contacts there have to write all the texts for the site we are creating and end-user materials in Russian, to allow the end-users to understand it. Fortunately SharePoint can deal with the Cyrillic script, even if I can’t….

Mixed terminology
It is easier for me to do projects with my colleagues based in Paris, because I do speak French. But I am only familiar with the terminology in English. I prefer to use English language settings on my computer, because I do not like to get my terminology translated. A browse button should be called a browse button and nothing else. But my French colleagues have computers that are French all over. Except for the intranet itself, because that is in English.

They see a button in the intranet that says ‘Upload’ and they have to know that this means ‘Télécharger’. And then their version of Windows takes over and offers them a button that says ‘Parcourir’ and I only know that that means ‘Browse’ because it appears in the location where I usually get the browse button. And none of the Help files and training materials are in French, so no help there.

So, the user experience that is straightforward when you are working in an English world becomes really messy when you are working on a French computer. It is not surprising that the employees in France hardly use the intranet at all and they don’t feel that it is meant for them.

What can we do?

  • Offer the most relevant content in different languages and make sure their content is not hidden behind anything English. That means personalization, as well as a lot of communication, to tell the people that it is worthwhile to look at the intranet and use the collaboration tools.
  • Configure the collaboration sites to be as local as needed: local time zone and time settings (not 10:00 AM 9/31/2009 Chicago time but 17:00 31/09/2009 Paris time), local language headings and explanatory texts.
  • Make sure the Quick Reference Cards and other ‘first aid’ user materials exist in all main languages of the company. It took me a moment to translate the Quick Reference Card to French, but it is not that much of an investment.
  • Preferably, the intranet and collaboration platform should also exist in different language versions, which follows the regional preferences of the computer. Most of all the buttons and action links that ordinary users see in their collaboration environment, such as Upload document, Edit document.

The last point requires a major overhaul of the system and is not something that we can do right now. But we are getting started with the other points. Now see if I can find a colleague who can start translating into Russian and Portuguese and what else do we need….

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