Why are Sites Like Google and eBay so Ignorant? Or is it Arrogant?

by Martin Malden

Sheer frustration. I recently tried to register on eBay – and the user experience was ghastly.

The same when I tried to set up a Hangout on Google+ a few weeks ago.

Why do these (and other) big sites think they’re so clever by presenting me with a Chinese user interface just because my IP address indicates I’m in Hong Kong? Without an option to switch to English?

Are they so ignorant of global geography that they’re unaware that, although the majority of people in Hong Kong are Chinese, at least 7% of the residents here cannot read Chinese? And that the legal language is English?

Come oonnn.

A site like Google should always have language options available in a switcher because they’re appealing to a global market.

Plus, and I’m talking to you, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, believe it or not, English speaking nationals from the US and the UK do actually travel to Hong Kong. Really. I promise.

And you present them with Chinese-only interfaces as well.

Google even has an office in Hong Kong, so they should know better, but apparently not.

For a company that continually talks about improving the user’s online experience, Google’s complete inability to deal with language selection effectively is disgraceful. After all, it’s not rocket science.

And eBay is no better, as I discovered this evening.

I tried to register because a friend of mine (who also cannot read Chinese) wanted to register but couldn’t work their way through the mess. So they asked for my help.

As soon as I indicated my address is in Hong Kong eBay immediately presented me with a Chinese interface. This time there was, at least, an option for English, which I clicked.

Alas, the result was awful.

They tried to combine both languages on one screen and completely failed to translate important pop up messages, error messages or anything in a drop down menu.

So, although I could get through the main registration fields I had to guess at what the error messages and drop down menus meant.

Mostly I got them wrong. So I gave up. We both gave up.

And it looked awful – the screen was an absolute mess.

And now I’m talking to you, John Donahoe: this was someone trying to register so they could give you some money. Well, I know that it probably won’t sink your company, but that’s one bit of money you won’t be getting.

I get seriously frustrated at the crappy user experience sites like Google and eBay offer to English speakers who happen to travel or live abroad – and it’s not only Hong Kong.

I have non-Thai speaking friends in Bangkok, and I often travel there myself, and we all have exactly the same experience: everything is in Thai characters with no English option.

So, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and John Donahoe, this is not a difficult problem to fix – why are your companies incapable of fixing it? It is, after all, your core business.

If you’re serious about improving your users’ online experience you should probably demonstrate it on your own sites.

Yours in frustration,

Martin Malden.

PS: For all Internet Marketers, there’s a message here and it’s not about languages. I know you’ll have picked up on it. Unless you work for Google.

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