Guideline C: Respect for culture and conventions


Your business applications cannot bring with it the habits and customs of your country without colliding with the habits and customs of your users in other countries. For example, in the United Kingdom you cannot drive on the right-hand side of the road for long before colliding with another vehicle. You cannot import the driving traditions of your country and expect them to work in other countries.

Guideline A and B deals with the most obvious evidence of cultural uniqueness: the language of the textual information. To avoid clashing with this cultural requirement you must translate the User Interface. Unfortunately, translation does not change nor correct another large segment of culturally sensitive information: the presentation formats of such entities as date, time, number, and currency. These formats are based on linguistic and cultural preferences that can change over time due to cultural and political reasons.

Cultural formatting is a very important area to consider when designing globalized software products. Locales provide a mechanism for delivering the cultural preferences of the user. It defines the conventions for a specific language and culture that influence the localized behavior of a program at runtime. The IBM National Language Design Guide, volume 2, SE09-8002, provided the initial list of presentation formats used around the world. Also available now is the Unicode Consortium's Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) that has an extensive compilation of locale data. The CLDR provides conventions of different languages for formatting entities such as dates, times, time zones, numbers, and currency values in XML format.

Guideline C deals with presentation and entry formats, not internal or database formats. It would be very awkward and impractical to store all possible presentation formats inside your product. It is also difficult to manipulate and process data in these final formats. It is only during presentation and data entry that transformation between the final format and internal format occurs. You must research the target marketplace to ensure that any assumption of format is correct.