There’s a good article on Brainsparks about how rarely users get around to changing their default computer settings.
“Less than 5% of the users we surveyed had changed any settings at all.”
This statistic has great relevance to web globalization. It means that if you’re using auto-detect features — such as geolocation to detect the user’s location and language negotiation to detect the user’s web browser language setting — you had better do so with care.
That is, if you think the user prefers German, you should also give the user the ability to opt out. That’s where the visual global gateway comes into play, nicely illustrated by Caterpillar here:
I’ve been to web sites that only use geolocation and language negotiation — effectively locking users into a given setting. That’s bad. Very bad. I literally had to flush the cookies out of my browser to escape the setting I was given by one web site — how many web users are going to know to do the same? Not many, I would guess. Definitely less than 5%!
If you’re going to make assumptions about a user’s preferred language, also assume that you might be wrong — and plan accordingly.