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When Microsoft announced that IE will soon begin to update automatically, plenty of web developers rejoiced. No more IE6! Lots more IE9, and IE10, and more!

Caveat faber, though: Windows XP can't get past IE8, and Windows 7 only recently, and just barely, edged out XP in global OS marketshare.

This kind of issue is particularly important in certain locations -- such as Southeast Asia, where many older computers migrate, and really have no reason to venture beyond WinXP.

These and other issues are the focus of Bruce Lawson's recent 'Notes on Designing Websites for the Asian Market'.

Why Asia? 40% of the world's population; and why Bruce Lawson? Well, he works for Opera, actively participates in the development of web standards (including html5doctor), and has spent a good deal of time all over East and Southeast Asia -- so he's a perfect person to consult on this region.

Bruce addresses quite a few special concerns for anyone developing websites for East and Southeast Asia:

  • Zombie browsers (very common)
  • Mobile (ubiquitous, and complex due to mixture of smart and feature phones, and larger Android adoption)
  • Typography (make sure you encode using UTF-8; consider some new HTML5 features suited to right-to-left and vertical text; provide pronunciation alternatives for rare characters, as is already done in print)
  • Forms (more cultural than technical: different parts of East and Southeast Asia reverse the family-given name order, or have single names only, or use nicknames regularly; so requiring a 'first name' and 'last name' doesn't always make sense)
  • Design (especially colors)

and a few more. So, sigh, you may want to resist the temptation to use CSS3 everywhere (older IE!), or download lots of web fonts (whose files can be unacceptably huge for languages written in a non-Latin alphabet).

My summaries here are pretty general and more monitory than constructive; but Bruce also includes more specific and positive suggestions, including extremely useful links on each specific topic.

Excellent resource for anyone taking the first two W's seriously. Definitely worth a read, and probably a bookmark too.


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