I can’t really say how frustrating it is to use my browser when I’m in Italy sometimes. My browser, the application that runs the most on my computer. My computer, my dear friend. It’s a betrayal and an example of what you can versus what you should do in terms of applying technology.
The technology I’m talking about is determining a browser user’s location. In my two-years as an expat I feel like more and more website I go to open up in Italian on me. Often with no way of turning it off or switching back to English.
Just now I went to Macy’s website. Granted, I googled it first, though I could have guessed the URL. So I deserved to be sent to the .IT version of the site, with blown up “WE SHIP TO ITALY NOW” covering the whole site. I quickly changed the URL to the standard www.macys.com and saw the normal american-aimed site that I wanted. From there, found a link to the info I sought. Only to be hit again the moment I clicked it “WE SHIP TO ITALY NOW”. Give it up, Macys, I’m so not interested.
Even earlier today, I went to my AdWords account to see why the ads are gone from my blog (robbing my of those potential pennies in case anyone were to click them!). I log in and it’s in Italian. I’m logged in! Google knows me. Google probably knows me better than my mother. So I google (ha) how to change your language preference in AdWords Dashboard and navigate through the Italian to find the setting, but it is already English. It mush be a setting for the language of the Ads, but looking at the “Inglese” sure felt ironic. Yes, I get by in Italian, but these are setting panels, it brings me to the level of a 70-year old blind women.
Speaking of Google. I have tried everything to get my browser search bar to default to google.com, rather than google.it. If I put google.com in the navigation bar while in Italy, it forwards to google.it. The only way to get to google.com is to use iGoogle– somehow that knows I’m me, American, and not to give me all Italian language search results. Just the normal wikipedia first then everything else, that I expect. But iGoogle is being phased out by Google and will be turned off November 2013. So I guess I’ll have to get better at reading Italian and wean off wikipedia.
Now I’m not saying all websites should always be in English, I’m saying that if you are going to offer multiple language versions of your website, which is great, you should do that, let the user choose to change it after you maybe pick the default based on location. Don’t assume every person in any location prefers one language. Like half the people in Italy at any given time are tourists (I think I read that in a Rick Steves once, I can’t back up those numbers), so it’s not that safe a bet as you might think that a person here wants to speak Italian. Plus we already can’t get to Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, NBC.com, or even the pirate bay. Also the fastest internet you can get is DSL but most people use “internet keys” which is cell phone tethering. And no, there is no 4G, lots of places have Edge or even no data coverage. So, don’t kick dirt in the wound by making inaccessible websites. It’s just mean.