AMITIAE - Friday 17 June 2016

Cassandra: iTunes App Store in Thailand - Confusing Hybrid Approach

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Just before I went to WWDC in San Francisco, the content in the iTunes store for Thailand, saw a number of changes. One welcome difference is that the prices given are all in real money: Thai baht. I have become so used to the prices being displayed in Dollars and Cents it may take me a while to adapt to the display of prices in the local currency. That is not the case for locals and comments I have heard are positive.

The content shown, however, is another matter, particularly on the App Store. Music content, for example has a number of albums with information displayed in English, while local performers have text in Thai (mainly), with some English, depending on the album. The special selections, such as Music, iTunes, Greatest Hits and others take a hybrid approach, with both English and Thai, displayed in different font sizes depending on the specific link.

The app store seems less-well designed since the changes appeared. Almost all the content is shown with English information (that suits me of course), but the graphics on the Categories panels do not make it clear what each represents, with the Thai characters.

App Store Categories

Other than clicking on every one (which is what I have done), users who cannot read Thai would have to resort to the App Store categories button, on the right of the main panel. That button shows 25 categories, while there are only 12 panels.

This mish-mash of languages is not really up to Apple's usual aesthetic levels: it is neither one thing or the other. I have suggested to Apple staff that dual wording might be helpful, so that underneath the Thai characters, the English equivalent would appear in a slightly smaller font. A rough example of this is shown in the image below:

App Store Categories
Suggested dual-language panel

For now, however, apart from the categories list, the 12 categories displayed are:

When I used these links in Safari on the iPad Pro and the iPhone, a browser page appeared and after a short delay the Category panel opens in the App Store.

Changes to the Thai pages do not always provide content that is as clean or clear as on the main Apple sites. A recent example was the purchasing pages on what was previously the Apple Online Store. When purchasing was subsumed into the main site, we lost the ability to buy things in English, making what had been an easy task into one that was quite painful.

After months of pressure, Apple considered the problem and an English language option was returned. I celebrated by buying a couple of accessories, while previously I had bought nothing for months.

As Apple is expanding its operations (and sales) globally, it must consider the user-base in each country and the problems of communication. Like a number of languages that do not use alpha-numeric characters, Thai is not easy to read for the large numbers of expatriates in the country: this would be similar in India and Myanmar, although each has different numbers of English-reading customers.

In most cases, information could be provided in dual language formats without spoiling the aesthetics of the iTunes panels.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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