Web access quite often spans multi-cultural domains and/or international boundaries. Well-engineered Web sites shall take into account international and cultural requirements of the target-user community as part of the design process. If a specific culture is a significant target-user community for page content, review should be performed by persons expert in that culture.

Phone numbers

All well-engineered Web pages containing telephone numbers shall provide sufficient context for use of the number. ITU Recommendation E.123 (02/01) [B54] shall be used.

Example: +1-202-371-0101.

Toll-free numbers may not be accessible outside of the geographical area. With internal organizational networks, be aware of the potential need for contact by target-user communities who may only have access to external telephone lines (e.g., travel or telecommuting), or may need full prefix information between locations. Contact numbers shall be accessible for those who are visually impaired or deaf. Telephone numbers should be tagged using the HTML tag (an RMfield). Applicable hours for the telephone number should be indicated. Time zone information should be indicated for networks that span multiple time zones.


Icons can be international symbols or may be culturally dependent. Icons should be accompanied by text or alt attribute to provide for navigation by individuals who are not familiar with the icons used, individuals traversing the Web by text, and persons with visual/motion impairments. Icons may be selected from those defined in the ISO/IEC 11581 specifications (see [B50], [B51], [B52], and [B53]) for international use. Icons may have trademark or legal implications as well.


Holidays vary between cultures and may even be specific to a particular locale. The well-engineered Web page should provide dates in universal formats (see 7.4) as well as any culturally-specific terms. The wellengineered Web page should not be designed on the premise that all users accessing the page will use the same time model as the page designers. Time-zone variations as well as “work day” variations should be considered in this context.

Place of origin

To facilitate interaction with the target-user community, or for legal protection, it may be useful for the wellengineered Web page or Web site to indicate the country or place of origin. If country of origin is to be included, it should be an RMfield, or an Rfield and an Mfield (, <… class=”origin”>). The country or place of origin shall use the two-letter country code identifier from ISO 3166-1: 1997 for an RMfield or an Mfield. Well-engineered Web pages may include location designations (or exclusions) where these relate to specific legal jurisdictions.


Users in some browsers can designate human language preference. This information can be used to deliver information in the format appropriate to the user. The trade-off between clarity of communication and the expense of maintaining pages in multiple languages should be considered in well-engineered Web site design. Automatic translation tools exist that provide a range of conversion to respond to target-user communities. Legal considerations also need to be incorporated into design here, with some countries requiring delivery of certain information in specific languages. When using a single language in a multi-cultural environment, the style and simplicity (including use of idioms and specialized terms) of the language should reflect the target-user community. Where translation is required the results should be verified.

Well-engineered Web pages shall declare their language of presentation using the lang attribute as appropriate. An example of use in the tag is , although the lang attribute can be inherited (including use in the span and div tags) for page segments with language changes. The declaration of the language of presentation shall be the native language of the well-engineered Web page. The two-letter codes identified in ISO 639-1:2002 and ISO 639-2:1998 shall be used to indicate common languages, which may be followed by a hyphen and a two-letter country code to denote variants (see ISO 3166-1: 1997; see HTML 4.0 specification, 8.1.1). The (direction) tag may also be needed to denote information for proper sequencing of presentation.

The lang attribute should be used by tools for both creation (e.g., spelling checkers, etc) and presentation (e.g., speech synthesizers) where applicable. For multiple language versions of a document, the link element with alternate, lang, and an appropriate URI may be used to indicate the URI for alternate-language versions. Also, the server may deliver alternate language versions based on site-specific conventions.


Some references are hemispherically oriented. Winter means something different in the northern hemisphere than it does in the southern hemisphere. Equating seasons to months should be avoided. Note that references such as “west” or “east” may be culture- or hemisphere-specific (testing for this is not easily automated).

Units: metric, monetary

Outside of the United States, units of the modern metric system (SI Units) are the norm for measurement, and in most of the world they are a requirement for commerce.30 Well-engineered Web pages shall use measurement unit(s) applicable to their target-user communities, which should include metric in many cases. Monetary units are nation-specific. Well-engineered Web pages should state monetary units in terms and currency symbols applicable to the context (both use of reference and intended user community). Some currency symbols are overloaded (such as “$”) and require additional qualification based on the user community. The monetary units defined in ISO 4217:2001 shall be used (testing for this is not easily automated).

Legal domains (e.g., comparative advertising, price quotes)

Business practices vary between legal jurisdictions in addition to those ways indicated above. Comparative advertising, price quotations, intellectual property, or other forms of information may be regulated or prohibited in specific environments. Well-engineered Web site engineers should review the commercial limitations of the page contents with experts in these areas, as applicable. If advertising is accepted on a site, it shall be in keeping with the legal and ethical considerations of the targeted user community (testing for this is not easily automated).

To facilitate cross-border e-commerce, e-commerce sites should prominently identify which countries they are willing to do business with, as well as any relevant geographic restrictions or conditions that affect potential users from other countries that may want to enter into transactions offered through the site. This information should be easily accessible from the site center, and available before users attempt to enter into transactions. For business to consumer (B2C) transactions, see recommended disclosures in the Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce, authored by the OECD (see [B56]).

Physical addresses

When presenting or collecting address information, country and postal code should be included. Note postal codes vary in format, and validation code should take this into consideration. It may be useful to collect country or postal code information before other information to minimize the user entry required, although users may not know details such as postal code or province.