Mixed Language pages – What do you think?


I’m working in London this week, and yesterday we were talking about mixed language pages.  My question to the group I was working with was this:

If we could provide components on signed in pages like the Visual Studio 2005 Developer Center, which is currently an English language page, that were targeted at users in different locales in their language, would this be considered a bad user experience or a step in the right direction?

So, for example, if you were a signed in user from France (and had specified France as the country in your profile), and when you went to the Developer Center, you would see all of the current content there, in English, plus additional content which was programmed by the MSDN team in France, in French.  This content might be news on local upcoming events, or links to French language only content, or links to French language community content.  There were a range of opinions in the group, but the general consensus that emerged was that developers whose primary language is not English still go to the main MSDN site for some or all of their content, so in all it would be a slightly positive experience. 

Do you agree about the likely developer reaction to this scenario?  Is the assertion that developers whose primary language is not English use the main MSDN site correct? I’d love to hear what you think!

Addendum: Yikes! Although I generally try not to edit existing posts except for grammatical errors, etc., I can see from the comments I’ve gotten already that I didn’t give enough context.  Absolutely we want all the subsidiary sites to be as great as the main site, including a wealth of content in the local language, and are working toward that goal.  And yes, as someone pointed out in the comments, this would be a temporary measure.  I’m talking here about surfacing a single additional piece of content, programmed by the in country folks specifically for this purpose, surfaced on a limited set of pages (starting with one).  So this wouldn’t be replacing anything, it would be in addition to.  Search and Browse wouldn’t be impacted.  The component would contain local information in the user’s local language — perhaps information on an upcoming event in France, or information programmed by Germany, specific to German users.  You could think of it as “local voice”.

All that said, keep your comments coming, I’m loving both the content of the comments AND the passion!

Comments (9)

  1. AndrewSeven says:

    There is a reason that I use MSDN and not the MSDN Canada.

    It is really only a perceptual difference, but if I notice that you start showing me "Canadian Content" on the Main MSDN pages instead of the default/core content, I will change my passport profile to "USA"

  2. That’s definitely a step in the right direction but why not just have a languages option that allows the user to pick and choose a language as and when they wish to. The natives could still provide ‘local’ content but this gives it a flexible generic approach for the user. You will be surprised how many multilingual users are out there! So if I am working in Italy I can flick the whole site into Italian as my Italia colleague leans over.

  3. Julie says:

    I hope you get to play. Go to the V&A! Go to Julia’s Tea House. (My two favorite places in London)

  4. Chris says:

    How would search and browse work? Would it load both browse trees? And mingle the results somehow? If there was an article which had been localized to French but was also available in English, would it show the French link, the English link, or both?

  5. Jerry Pisk says:

    I would agree that all developers use the main MSDN site, the localized sites are just not any good. As for showing localized content – are you talking about showing local content or showing content in the user’s language? Those are two different things, the former would be based on user’s profile, the latter on Accept-Language header sent by their browser.

  6. Mark says:

    They go to the English site because they know the information on the non-english sites are limited and not always up to date.

    Your proposal is more like a band-aid.

    Most everyone would probably prefer to have the information in their native language.

    Try reversing the scenario with a language you either didn’t speak or had limited knowledge of.

  7. lauraj says:

    Please see my addendum. There are some good questions here, that I’ll work to address in a future post…. keep the comments coming!

  8. Liviu says:

    two side notes: going to England doesn’t mean you leave English space (although for an American you feel so)… Try Belgium (two different languages on a very small space) – both non English languages … Actually try Europe for a while – diversity would be the main word there… And ask around how to get the same content in many languages in the same time – and not losing some of it’s values ("Lost In Translation" is a movie made by an European for the US market… – they had to select Japan to prove a point… They wouldn’t get the same result if the movie would be shot no matter where in Europe – Turkey included)… It would be nice to have some of the content in one’s native (how we define it? – I’m Romanian living in Quebec) language… Would we be losing some of the content? How do you deal with Quebecers’ point of vue? It’s not the same French you’d expect (try New Zealand for English language…)