~ 2 min

Filling a cup with drops of water

#webdev #Switzerland

I don't usually write rants, but this one needs to come out...

Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland by Marco Meyer [source]

Let me tell you a story

The year is 20 something, after some time of struggle with COVID-19, we finally beat it and I can finally go home for the summer without any worries. Despite living in Switzerland, since I am Portuguese, I usually fly with TAP at least to go home.

When I visit TAP's website, I am presented with a website in German. This is normal. Switzerland is a country with four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The most common one is German, so it stands to reason that most websites targeted at (or from) Switzerland present themselves in German on your first visit when they see you are coming from Switzerland.

Sadly, I don't know German (yet), so every time I enter a website in German, I start looking for the language picker so I can change the language to one that I might understand. Once I do this on TAP's website, I can finally get down to business and buy my tickets and when I do, I'm happy and leave the website thinking about the beaches and the sand waiting for me.

Sadly, five minutes later, I'm not that happy anymore because I just realized that I needed to travel with a check-in luggage that I forgot to add. No worries, I go back to TAP to fix the issue, but I'm greeted again with a website in German?!?


This situation is common: you visit a website, you change the language to one you understand. Once you get what you need, you leave. The next time you come back, the website is once again in a language you do not understand instead of the one you picked on your last visit.

Some will say that this is nothing. In fact, it is nothing. A nothing that can be fixed in a couple of clicks. A nothing without any real impact. It is true but it is a nothing that happens every day, multiple times per day.

Every time this happens it's something small, like a drop of water... but after a while, your cup will probably be full.

TAP is a single example out of hundreds, probably thousands. Go ahead, try this at comparis or even migros. Look for other Swiss websites but don't forget to close the page after picking the language and re-opening it to check what language you will be presented with. If you read until now, you already know the result.

We as web developers

As a web developer, this makes me mad. Why is the user presented with a default language he does not understand, if he already chose his preference before? If you have a good reason I'd really like to know. If not, can we do better? After all, Switzerland is mostly German but not only.

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