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Re: International Internet Icons

From: Christophe Pouylau <cpouylau@yahoo.com>
Date: Tue, 03 Apr 2001 14:13:06 +0900
Message-Id: <>
To: www-international@w3.org

Being very keen on human factors, I'd like to express what I've read here
and there on the regarding subject of this thread.

Icons are great. They save screen real-estate, don't need localization, and
look pretty cool and sexy. But they can be bandwidth-hungry, inaccessible to
the visually impaired, and cryptic to the non-initiated. A picture's worth a
thousand words... multiplied by the number of participants. And if you take
the chance to trade clarity and usability for 'look and feel', don't expect
users to click on this obvious question mark. They would invest time to
learn a UI if they spent money on it and/or need it. But if the content of a
Web site is not unique, they won't bother.

Assuming that users will benefit from their computer knowledge on the Web
makes perfect sense if your target audience is populated with software
engineers. But if you intend a site to be usable for the majority of people,
bear in mind that the prime motivation of consumers who buy their first PC
is to 'get on the Net.' More and more of them won't even use a computer for
this, but rather some kind of information appliance, TV set-top box or
on-board, portable, wearable you-name-it widget.

As far as Web design is concerned, the use of a specific icon for 'home' or
'back-to-the-root' seems a bit like the desktop metaphor in OS design:
outdated. Just have a look at your favorite sites and see... To get back to
the top level of the information hierarchy, you click the company's logo, in
the upper left corner--or upper right, on bidi pages.

What would be the standard international Internet icon for
'back-to-the-previous-page'? Obviously none, since this functionality is
integrated in the browser.

Standardization is more than a matter of graphics, it's about behaviors. For
centuries, readers have been used to look up and left when searching for the
origin of a page, to browse back to the left. And what do people most do on
the Web?

Perhaps if you could list these usual, repetitive behaviors, it would be
possible to do well without icons.


----- Original Message -----
From: Lacoursiere, Guy <Guy.Lacoursiere@Cognos.COM>
To: 'Tex Texin' <texin@progress.com>; Richard Francois M
Cc: <paul.a.brandt@us.pwcglobal.com>; <www-international@w3.org>
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2001 4:25 PM
Subject: RE: International Internet Icons

 > The symbol of the home icon (the house icon, as I call it) is totally
 > obscure to non-English users.  To a French, German or Japanese user, what
 > does a house have to do with the concept of "returning to the initial
 > In Internet Explorer, the French translation of Home is "D駑arrage"
 > in German, it is "Startseite" (Start page); in Japanese, it is, well, it
 > three kanas that read something like "homu".  The house picture has
 > absolutely no meaning in these languages, let alone the fact that it looks
 > nothing like a French, German or Japanese house.
 > Yes, through exposure, people know what it means, but there is no
 > behind it. It's just an image of something.
 > On terminology, the fact that "many computer related words become [...]
 > of other languages" does not make them international.  The word "computer"
 > is probably understood by most people who have one.  You still wouldn't
 > to use it in a proper French or Spanish user interface.
 > An icon must not illustrate a play on words in any given language. The
 > "house" icon is no different.
 > Guy Lacoursi鑽e
 > Cognos Incorporated
 > Software Globalisation Consultant
 > -----Message d'origine-----
 > De: Tex Texin [mailto:texin@progress.com]
 > Date: domenica 1 aprile 2001 18:15
 > タ: Richard Francois M
 > Cc: 'paul.a.brandt@us.pwcglobal.com'; www-international@w3.org
 > Objet: Re: International Internet Icons
 > OK, I'll have to go back to my copy. I thought pictures of houses was
 > pointed out as not appropriate in his book.
 > The "however", that goes with this, is that some icons have been used
 > so much in software, that even though they were not international to
 > begin with, they become international thru exposure. Just as many
 > computer related words become international and a part of other
 > languages' lexicons.
 > The "however" that goes with the first "however" is that as new
 > regional markets become computer literate, they have to learn these
 > "foreign" symbols from scratch.
 > tex
 > "Richard, Francois M" wrote:
 > >
 > > Yes,
 > >
 > > It is the book by Horton. It does not look like a "home" to me neither,
 > but
 > > I recognize the icon and interpret it.
 > > Francois
 > >
 > > > -----Original Message-----
 > > > From: Tex Texin [mailto:texin@progress.com]
 > > > Sent: Friday, March 30, 2001 9:05 PM
 > > > To: Richard Francois M
 > > > Cc: 'paul.a.brandt@us.pwcglobal.com'; www-international@w3.org
 > > > Subject: Re: International Internet Icons
 > > >
 > > >
 > > > Except, in many parts of the world that icon does not look like
 > > > a typical house or a home. So in what way is that icon international?
 > > >
 > > > Is this the book by Horton?
 > > > tex
 > > >
 > > > "Richard, Francois M" wrote:
 > > > >
 > > > > There is a set of international icons from the "icon book".
 > > > > Attached is the "home" icon, as an example.
 > > > >
 > > > > Francois
 > > > >

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Received on Tuesday, 3 April 2001 01:36:04 UTC

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