Halo 3 Puts Age Before Language

The final installment of Microsoft’s best-selling game franchise Halo is now in stores everywhere. I took a moment to check out the Web site — which is probably about as close as I will get to owning the game.

First off, Halo 3 has been localized into 17 languages. This is a major product release for Microsoft, right on par with Windows or its Office package.

But the Halo 3 Web site could stand some improvement in the global usability department.

The first thing you encounter when visiting www.halo3.com is the “age gateway” shown here:

halo3_birthdate.gif

Halo is hardly the only Web site to use an age gateway. Drop by the Web site of Anheuser-Busch or any other alcohol producer and you’ll encounter similar devices.

First of all, this article isn’t about the futility of the age gateway, though I would love to see the log files of what dates are actually entered on these Web pages. My guess is that you’ll find that a surprising number of people we’re born on January 1st. That’s what I enter every time I hit one of these gateways: 01/01 and some random year.

So I go ahead and enter my birthdate: 01/01/1921 and I end up on the Halo 3 site, shown here:

halo3_2.gif

Naturally, I’m here to see what this game actually looks like. So I click on the main image for a tour and what do I encounter but a global gateway, shown here:

halo3_gateway.gif

This is about as deeply buried a global gateway as I have found. Now I do understand why it’s there. The Web site that provides the Halo 3 tour is a landing page that is fed from many Web sites: Halo 3, Xbox, and Microsoft. So the designers of this tour site built in their gateway because they couldn’t know where the visitor was arriving from.

What we have here is a classic example of Web sites developed within silos and then patched together without taking into account the experience of Web users around the world. Microsoft is not alone in struggling with this issue.

Ideally, you should put the global gateway in front of the age gateway. Language is more important to age when it comes to ensuring they have a positive experience on your Web site.

Also, different countries use different date formats; you want to make sure a Web user in Europe doesn’t try to enter the date in the month field and end up with annoying error messages.

So I did eventually take the Halo 3 tour and I must admit that it looks pretty cool. I really want the game. Of course, that would entail buying the Xbox 360, which would entail convincing my wife that we need the Xbox 360.

For now, the tour will have to suffice.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.