with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

International Standards

Yes, we’re still not done. There is even more you need to know when it comes to web page and site development. While the following items are not required for everyone, they are well worth considering.

International Challenges

While the majority of web pages are in English, moves by the UN and other international groups are working hard to change that. As more and more people speaking a variety of languages gain access to the Internet, foreign language and international issues will become more and more critical to the web page designer. There are a variety of ways to make your pages more “foreign language” friendly, through its coding and by providing translations of your pages, widening your audience.

For now though, most web pages are in English, but even English isn’t always English. There is American English, British English, South African English, Australian English, and even more English out there, each with their own rules and regulations on how things should be spelled and arranged. Other international challenges include issues with dates and measurements. People living in the US take it for granted that everyone understands the difference between an inch and a yard, that the dollar sign is the symbol for the US dollar, and that dates are month-day-year. In the rest of the world, however, the metric system is standard, and Fahrenheit degrees are obsolete. The “$” sign may mean Mexican pesos or Australian dollars, and dates are more commonly seen as day-month-year.

There are standards for dates, monetary symbols and other things for use on web pages, too. According to the International Standards Organization, a group similar to the W3 that overseas internationalizing of all technical standards since 1947, ISO 8601, Data Elements And Interchange Formats states that the international standard for the calendar date is year-month-day shown in a 4-2-2 format such as ” 2005-09-05” to designate August 5, 2005. This standard is to be used in all technical programming, code, and technical data, but it is still not universally accepted by non-technical users. Still, it is one of the standards that must be examined and chosen to create consistency within your web pages.

As US citizens living overseas, and providing a Website accessible to an international audience, we had to make a decision about the standard of dates within our own Website. To avoid confusion, we chose to use actual words such as ” August 5, 2005” instead of ” 09/05/05” or ” 05/09/05” or ” 05-09-05“, etc. You have to decide what the standard will be for your own site and stick to it.

Which spellings are you going to use? American English or British English? Make sure your HTML codes reflect which form of English you are using to guarantee the right characters appear within the browser’s screen.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), valid documents require a document type ( doctype) code at the beginning of each document. This code passes on instructions about the code language inside the document, the content language, and gives other information vital to the successful interpretation and display of the page by the browser software. For example, our document type is as follows, representing our page as a public access document designed using HTML 4.01 Transitional code and it’s in English:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">

Code that results when the document type is wrong on a web page. You have to decide which way you are going to go that will meet the needs of the majority of Internet users. Here are some Websites to help you understand the challenges of making your Website “international”.

Access to All: Multilingual Web Pages

one of our web pages translated into Spanish by Google Translate Accessibility means access to all. All means everyone, and that includes people who don’t speak English. Have you given this any thought in developing your Website? According to IBM’s WebFountain, 65% of all web pages are currently written and displayed in English. Projections are that by 2010, English will be in the minority as a world language. Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Arabic languages are growing in popularity on the Internet.

While translation software is greatly improved, it is still improving. There are many online services offering free translations of web pages, though your degree of accuracy improves with purchased translation software packages or programs. So you can choose to set up duplicate pages of your web pages in a foreign language or two on your own, or with an investment in software or translators. We are planning on translating many of our pages about nature photography techniques into Spanish in the near future. It’s worth considering to widen your audience, especially if you sell a product or service with international viability.

International Issues for Web Pages

Date, Time, Money, International Standardization

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