Travel and localisation – don’t take it personal

Whilst away during Christmas (in Catalunya), not wanting to miss out on any sales, I did quite a bit of browsing (slouched on a sofa, as my body slowly digested five course meals), and I was “SO” disappointed with how otherwise regularly-frequented sites treated me and (what should have been) my familiar device. A device that I’ve used to browse their service a thousand times back in the UK. They all did that really lame, cliched “Oh this request is from this region so change the language and currency and prices for delivery to this location”. Gordon Bennett!

Even Google does it with its search engine… And they have my ENTIRE LIFE stored in my emails, docs, plus, maps and google now!! Do they really think I’ve suddenly moved to another country and changed address? And language??… Google Now knew about my return flight… so why on earth would I want to use google.es? Although in fairness to Google, at least it wasn’t defaulting, but giving me the choice.

Global location detection was a point of discussion for BBC Mobile for as long as I can remember. Of course the site was available worldwide (even in the countries that thought they had successfully stopped us), but there was particular content and contexts that needed consideration; Such as our other language sites (such as BBC Mundo) and later on; iPlayer, who’s content was only allowed within the UK to supposed licence fee payers.

We had a back-end service layer that detected “Geo-IP” which helped of course, but the question wasn’t a technical one, it was always a usability one. The knee-jerk response to geo location is to detect someone’s location and redirect (or translate) the content. But what if it was just a Brit abroad?… And what of the evidence that indicated that they might have wanted the English version such as bookmarking or deep linking.

Locations do not request webpages, people do. A requesting IP address might tell you where someone is, but not “who” they are. For that, there are many other methods of deduction. It’s a personalisation facet of interactive services, and a beautiful example of where personalisation can be implemented without the need for razor-sharp user insights or extra sensory perception. Just subtle, intelligent use of the information you have already.

The geo-specific delivery of service and content is way over ten years old. I can’t believe so many people are still getting it wrong.

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