Why do I have to press #1 for English? Bad usability.

Today my wife sent me one of those “I’m American hear me roar” emails that was simply a picture of an American flag with text stating: Why the hell should I have to press ‘1’ for ENGLISH?!

You’re right dear wife, and whoever created the political statement over the top of a pixelated American flag. Why should you have to press 1 for English? But since the statement is politically charged by the powerful American flag I’m pretty sure the question is nothing but a derogatory statement rather than a jab at the real issue… You see, if you ask me, the reason you have to press “1 for English” is because of bad design and usability:

The way I see it is that we have two use cases when a system is designed for two languages and the majority is English:

1. English caller
2. Caller speaking other language (we’ll use Spanish as an example)

Seems simple, in most cases the English speaking caller is going to be a higher percentage than the Spanish right? So why inconvenience the majority? That’d be like having all IE 6 users click an extra button to view content…Dumb. So why don’t we just do something like the following:

You: Ring… Ring… Ring….

Big Corp: Hello, welcome to Big Corporation! Hola, recepción al Big Corporation! Presione el número uno para el español (translated, I think: Hello, welcome to Big Corp, press number one for Spanish)

You: Wait patiently for a second (note, no phone fumbling here!)

Big Corp: Press 2 to get yourself into a loop, press 3 if you want to talk to somebody (even though you can’t)…..

Makes sense doesn’t it? I know nothing about phone systems but it can’t be that terribly difficult in this day and age. Can it?

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