Design for non-native speakers (16)


Last weekend, I hosted Salinas’s first overnight hackathon at the National Steinbeck Center in oldtown Salinas. It was a neat format, and AgTech themed. The spirit of the event was one of understanding different worlds of thought to develop a solution to a real-world problem. We had agricultural industry leaders like Lorrie Koster and Joe Pezzini, along with many local farmers and AgTech professionals. Day one started with a keynote by Lorrie Koster on industry priorities and was followed up by farmers and AgTech professionals pitching their ideas to inspire project ideas to participants. One farmer, Jackie Vazquez from Sundance communicated the importance of a need for simplicity in design for farm workers, namely indigenous folk that hardly even speak Spanish, but rather a dialect.

This makes me wonder about a huge workforce that goes unnoticed when designing software or anything for that matter. Is it okay for applications that are designed and created to be used by people that are not comfortable with English be acceptable? I don’t know if I could say it’s unethical, but a part of me thinks that if a company is at a point where they have the labor power to create and design with the intended user in mind, they should be responsible for designing to the needs of the user.

Not doing so creates a barrier between the intended user that could be eliminated. On the spectrum of right and wrong, I would say it’s more wrong to not design to those that are not native to the dominate language. This isn’t just here, but universally. I am putting myself in a situation, and I would feel less empowered to do my job if I was unable to operate a tool that was created for me to interact with.

Instead of having non-native speakers blindly memorize digital paths to the correct screen, companies need to keep the user in mind while not only designing but also in providing language preferences. Not doing so needs to been seen as unjust.



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