Internationally Speaking

Just visited the McAfee website and on one of the forms encountered a, shall we say, anomaly presented itself.

I am a patriotic kind of guy, and I’m not in any way anti-American (I’m well aware that the percentage of idiots over there matches the numbers we have here), and when you actually consider what I’m about to tell you isn’t really about patriotism, jingoism or somesuch.

Rather it’s a wonderful piece of bad programming that I’ve seen before, centred around the fact that (at least for the purposes of this discussion) the country I am identified with is known as both the United Kingdom (UK) and Great Britain (GB).

I’m Scottish, and my country is part of Great Britain (which is the main island mass which also includes Wales and England). Add in Northern Ireland and you have the United Kingdom. It confuses me but that isn’t really the issue here.

When selecting my nationality in an online form, invariably I have one option: United Kingdom. On some forms I am delighted to be able to select Scotland, and on others I have to hunt for Great Britain.

However, the McAfee form in question proved a little troubling.

On highlighting the Nationality list, and tapping the U key, I was taken down to Uganda. A few more taps of the DOWN arrow key is usually all that is required to get me to “United Kingdom”. Not this time though, so I clicked the list top expand it, just to make sure I hadn’t keyed too fast but no, there was no United Kingdom.

No problem, I think, I’ll just tap the G key to get me back up the list towards Great Britain. This time I expanded the list first and scrolled down to… hang on… no Great Britain either? Great! Must be an option for Scotland!


Somewhat puzzled now I double-checked that there was no entry for Scotland. There wasn’t. United Kingdom? Not listed amongst the rest of the nations of the world that begin with U. Must be Great Britain then?

And there it was, nestled away amongst the Gs. “United Kingdom”.

Now technically I can figure out what has happened, the label which is displayed to the user is “United Kingdom” but the value, on which the list being sorted, is set as “Great Britain”.

I have to wonder if this was tested at all and if so they have missed a fairly obvious set of test cases. If you are a global company then you need to consider these things.

OK, admittedly it is a tiny mistake amongst a large and complex website but it does serve to remind me to take the unhappy path through our own software now and then. I have a tendency to check through screens and processes presuming a lot of knowledge and taking the happy path.

Footnote: I worked for Dr. Solomons for a year before they were purchased by McAfee. One of the projects (ditched by McAfee) concerned a global company update system, during which many long design meetings centred around just this kind of “international” issue. But hey, I’m not bitter that they made me and 250-odd other people redundant almost immediately after they bought us, honest…

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Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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1 comment

Frank Davidson, UK says:

Slack table building then subsequent slack VV&T indeed. I find it annoying when ‘United Kingdom’ isn’t listed. I just found this ‘blog posting when I typed “United Kingdom not listed” in my search engine. I’ve thrown out software in which during registration they’ve tried to railroad me into entering ‘Scotland’ as my country. I’ve just tried to submit an application for a licence from The Home Office (an executive agency of the government (*of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland*). United Kingdom isn’t listed. What a sack of spuds site that is. I’m British, not Scottish, not English. Perhaps for countries like the UK where there are sparatist tensions Site /SW developers should allow both the unionist and separatist choices (United Kingdom, England Scotland, Wales all listed) so as no to have their political philosophy imposed on users.

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