While visiting Salzburg, Austria in May 2011, I saw this sign in a shop window:
While I live in the United Kingdom, I’m originally from Australia. And one thing many Australians share with the British (along with many of our other Commonwealth compatriots) is a feeling of nausea whenever we see the United States flag being used as an icon for the English language.
Being a user experience designer, I’ve long been aware of the perils of using flags to represent languages on websites. However it seems the more I travel and the more I browse the internet, this flag-as-language convention seems as prevalent as ever.
This blog has two general aims: to show the fundamental flaws in using flags to represent languages and how to create good experiences when dealing with multilingual and multiregional content.
While the tone of the blog is aimed mainly at those working online and in software, I hope the lessons can extend through to the other industries such as travel and hospitality — who are probably the also as guilty of flag misappropriation as anyone.