NOTO, as in No Tofu

First of all, I love tofu.

But when you see it on a computer screen, it’s not so nice.

Like those two rows of “tofu-shaped” objects shown below that indicate a missing font:

tofu3

Tofu used to be a much bigger problem ten years ago, back when fonts are strictly aligned with different character sets and computers shipped with very limited font families. Today, computers and phones ship with system fonts that can natively display a significant number of languages.

Nevertheless, as websites support more and more languages, the need for fully world-ready fonts will only grow.

So it’s nice to see Google investing in creating open-source font faces to support the world’s languages.

This font family is called NOTO (as in no tofu).

google_noto

A package of all 100+ fonts weighs more than 470MB.

Instead, you might pick and choose which language/script you wish to support:

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This post is brought to you by the Multilingual Eye Chart.

 

On the importance of date display localization

The proper display of dates for each locale has become relatively trivial with libraries such as Globalize and yet I still encounter websites that don’t get it right.

Case in point, I recently visited a tech website looking for a firmware upgrade and I found a list of three downloads:

date_localize2

I had to scan to list to figure out exactly how the dates were formatted.

The third item made it clear that month came after day, which is not standard for the United States.

One simple fix is to spell out the name of the month. But a more scalable fix is to take advantage of Globalize.

(Here’s an article by Jukka Korpela on how to use Globalize.js to display local dates properly)

Do your web developers know about Globalize?

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Today, the JQuery Foundation has announced availability of Globalize 1.0:

Globalize provides developers with always up-to-date global number formatting and parsing, date and time formatting and parsing, currency formatting, and message formatting. Based on the Unicode Consortium standards and specifications, Globalize uses the Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR), the most extensive and widely-used standard repository of locale data. With Globalize, all developers can quickly reach global markets with confidence that their apps and sites will always have the most accurate and up-to-date locale data available.

I published a book a few years back on an early iteration of Globalize. I’m excited to see  jQuery moving forward with Globalize, as it has improved not only the lives of anyone who must internationalize and localize web apps and websites, but also the experience of web users around the world. Because users benefit from seeing dates and times and currencies displayed as they expect them to be displayed for their respective cultures — and displayed consistently across web applications.

If your developers aren’t aware of Globalize, point them to it today.

WordPress now at 70 languages, and counting

This blog has been hosted on WordPress since 2002.

Since then, WordPress has grown into one of the dominant publishing platforms on the Internet. And one of the most multilingual as well, with strong support for 53 locales and limited support for an additional 20 or so locales.

Languages supported include Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Icelandic,  and Thai. Even  Scottish Gaelic.

And the result of all this localization is now clear. As creator Matt Mullenweg noted earlier this year, non-English downloads of WordPress have surpassed English downloads.

wordpress-downloads

Looking ahead, WordPress will expand the localization framework and refine language packs, which are currently a bit odd to work with in my opinion.

Also coming are fully localized theme and plugin directories.

WordPress is a great example of how early and ongoing investment in localization reaps global rewards.

PS: If your locale is not currently supported, you can always help get it there.

 

What’s the ROI of web globalization?

currency

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile. A few months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly said this at an investor meeting:

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.”

I love this quote.

And I love any CEO who knows when the ROI argument is an irrelevant argument.

That’s because sometimes the ROI just isn’t there — maybe not initially, maybe not ever. And sometimes NOT doing something is far worse than worrying about the ROI of actually doing it.

Which leads me to web globalization.

What’s the ROI of web localization for a given language or market?

Isn’t this an important data point to have?

Yes. And no.

I have helped companies calculate the ROI of web localization. And I’ve been privy to extremely complex ROI models that look at factors such as GDP, Internet connectivity, macroeconomic trends, political instability, demographics, and internal business priorities.

I don’t want to suggest that these efforts aren’t worth the effort. They usually are worth the effort.

But I also hate to see ROI used as a convenient excuse for saying NO.

More often than not, the ROI of web localization is all too obvious, or it should be to those at the top of the org chart.

And if you’re in a position of arguing for greater localization investment, I suggest you ask anyone who objects:

What’s the ROI of creating an English-language website?

“Isn’t it obvious that we need an English-language website?” would be the likely response from an English speaker.

Using that logic, isn’t it equally as obvious to speakers of other languages that you need to support their languages if you ever hope to sell to them?

Seems obvious to me.

So the question really shouldn’t be IF we should localize but HOW to do so effectively, making the best use of resources and managing user expectations as we expand within new markets. And ROI has a role to play in these discussions as well, but a much more nuanced role.

Questions every marketing team should ask when it comes to using ROI to make web localization decisions:

  • Is ROI being used to justify our pathetically low investment in web localization?
  • Is ROI being used to “kick the can” down the road of making a decision on web globalization?
  • Will we look back five years from now and kick ourselves for not investing in such and such language/locale?

ROI is not the answer. It’s just a tool to help you arrive at an answer. And sometimes, when the answer is obvious, it’s not a very effective tool at all. It can in fact be dangerous.

And on a final note, I can tell you that a number of companies at the top of the 2014 Report Card did not worry about ROI when deciding to invest in, say, Arabic or Chinese or Hindi. They just did it knowing that web globalization was key to their long-term success.

 

Mozilla frees web browser from mobile language limitations: A Q&A

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I was intrigued to read recently that Mozilla is working on updating the Firefox Android mobile browser, codename Fennec, to allow the browser to offer more languages than the underlying Android system currently supports. Typically, apps leverage language support from the underlying operating system, which can sometimes be limiting. So it’s nice to see Mozilla moving beyond this limitation.

To learn more, I asked Mozilla localization engineer Jeff Beatty a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: With Fennec, Mozilla is effectively freeing the web browser from the language restrictions of the underlying Android OS. Can you detail roughly how many language Android supports vs. the number of languages Fennec will support?

A: This can be a complicated question, because language support is often very broadly defined. What traditionally determines if an app can be localized in the Android OS is the number of languages the OS itself is localized into. Excluding region codes, the Android source code indicates that Google localizes Android into 46 languages. Device manufacturers will often expand that to upwards of 85 languages. Essentially, any Android device can have localizations for between 46 and approximately 85 languages.

By allowing for language switching within the Firefox for Android browser, we’re able to allow users to select from languages that are not offered on their Android device. There are about 16 volunteer Mozilla localization teams who have translated strings for the browser, but have been unable to see their localizations delivered to Firefox users through the Google Play store. Of these, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Basque, Fulah, and Armenian are on the roadmap to be shipped with the language switching feature in Firefox 32.

Q: How are these additional languages supported by the browser? Specifically, is the language data included in the original install or will data be pulled from the server if the user switches to a language not supported by Android?

A: The language data is included in a multi-locale APK delivered through the Google Play store.

Q: Are there any other localization/culture data dependencies on Android that have proved challenging when it comes to supporting non-Android languages?

A: Absolutely. The language switching piece places us in the right direction, but we’re now confronted with localization issues we haven’t had to encounter before. The benefit of shipping Android-supported languages is that you rarely have to worry about issues with character rendering, Unicode-enabled fonts, ISO locale code support, or in-app region-specific customizations. Now we need to ensure that each of these locales are thoroughly tested for these issues and determine what we can feasibly do to not only support the languages, but also ensure that memory consumption remains low and performance remains high for all users.

Q: Do you have other operating systems planned for this model? For instance, there would be an even greater disparity on iOS that Fennec will address.

A: There are no plans to expand Fennec to ship on iOS. The Flame developer reference phone allows us more freedom to experiment with languages that have never been tested on devices before (like Fulah, certain Indic languages, and indigenous languages in Mexico, for instance). All of these have active localizers and some have even already been using Firefox OS in their language unofficially on localized test / developer builds of Firefox OS.

Q: Finally, was this feature something asked for by users? Do you have any usage data that illustrates demand for a given language/locale that you are now able to support?

A: Users and our volunteer localization community were the primary drivers behind the demand for this feature. Since language coverage is a primary concern for the localization team, we are preparing to meet that demand.

To learn more…

https://blog.mozilla.org/l10n/2014/05/20/language-switching-in-fennec/