I visited the home page of the Chinese online travel agency website Ctrip recently and came across this odd flag:
Just because the UK voted to separate from the EU doesn’t mean that it’s considering a merger with the United States (the last I checked).
Seriously, I understand why companies use this hybrid flag—as an all-purpose English icon. But it fails to achieve that goal because flags are not synonymous with language. And, as icons go, people generally don’t like to see their national flags chopped up or merged with other flags.
A better approach is to avoid using any flag at all and simply use “English.”
For more on flags and the global gateway, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.
A few things.
First, using flags to indicate language is almost always a mistake.
Second, why are the language names all in English?
Only the “English language” text needs to be in English. The purpose of the gateway is to communicate with speakers of other languages, not just English speakers.
Finally, do we need “Language” at all? I would think not.
I wrote an article for UX Magazine (based on my research for Lionbridge) that highlights global best practices in the travel industry.
Travelers want websites that travel with them
In the travel industry, your customers are mobile. If you greet them with a “select country” pull-down menu, they might wonder if you’re asking for their home country, departing country, or destination country. Which means you need to invest a great deal of planning into your global gateway.
More important, you need to offer users a consistent language experience across any device they may be using. It’s a mystery to me why a company will localize its website into 30 languages and only localize its mobile app into five or six languages (I’ve seen many instances of this).The irony here is that mobile apps, if developed properly, can be localized more cost effectively than websites.
The linguistic “syncing” of websites, mobile sites, and apps is a hot topic among many of the companies I’ve spoken with this year — across all industries. Given the rise of Internet usage on mobile devices, it’s fair to say that all Internet users want websites that travel with them.