Belgium

The Self-Identification of the Other: How Flanders came to be the Name of the Region Today

Today, Flanders refers to the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. But what about the provinces of East and West Flanders? Why is it that the region took on the name of a County that existed on the western end of the country? To any historian, the name ‘Flemish Brabant’ sounds like an oxymoron, because Brabant was itself a Duchy, a centre of economic prowess and the seat of power of the Duchy of Burgundy. On the same note, for a Limburger or an Antwerper to call himself ‘Flemish’ sounds positively bizarre. Why can they not just call themselves ‘northern Belgians’?

In the search for an answer to this situation, this article will examine the historic and political context in which Flanders was defined over the last two thousand years. At the same time, the article will inadvertently try to untangle the vital differences in the perspectives of the Dutch and French language communities and their societies, which are often clouded in the highly-politicised discourse of the media and politicians here. Read more

The Art of Saying ‘No’: ‘Naying’ Among the British, the Belgians and the Chinese

Having lived in Belgium for more than a decade, I have come to notice the *Northern Belgians’ penchant for anything British: British TV, British comedians, British humour, British soaps… I guess it comes from the steady diet of BBC television and the often undubbed telecast of BBC programmes on Belgian channels, the country being such a small market itself. Read more

Poorly-made signs confuse your users

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Carrefour supermarket, Ghent, 4 June 2012, Belgium

The manager of this branch of Carrefour supermarket should be fired.

The door of this entrance has not been working since time immemorial. Instead of mending the door, staff tried to prevent customers from using the left door by putting up very poorly-made signs telling them to use the right door.

When the top sign that says “THIS DOOR” did not work, the hand-written bottom sign was put there elaborating the message in broken Dutch: “Please take other door thank you”

The result: customers continue to push both doors and the already broken left door suffers further damages.

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Another UX lesson from our daily life: use clear, recognisable visual aids

use clear, recognisable visual aids

Ghent, 28 May 2012, Belgium

There are some rules by which one can apply when it comes to design for good user experience:

  • Zero or minimal learning curve
  • Visually indicative environment to guide the user
  • As few steps as possible for the user to reach his goal
  • As little time as possible for the user to reach his goal
  • FUN!

The above picture indicates how a bad user experience costs time and money for the driver and for the city administration. Read more

Keep your signs within sight, lest your guests run amok!

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Ghent, 28 May 2012, Belgium

As I was strolling around the city today, I found this sign interesting. The panel in the left picture is the back part of it, in the counter-traffic direction. The panel in the right picture is the front part, facing incoming traffic.

As in accordance to traffic rules, the handicap parking panel is to be placed on the side of the road of the parking lot, just before it and facing the traffic. The lots are also clearly marked with a wheelchair sign. Read more

Unrelated instructions are the worst cases of bad UX

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Brussels Airport Train Station, 26 May 2012, Belgium

This instance shows how people often flout a major rule in design: unrelated instructions

I have no idea why the wheelchair sign is placed beside the ticket vending machine. It probably means that the machine is of a wheelchair-friendly height. But if a sign is not immediately clear to the user, it is useless or may even be counter-productive.

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