The problem with the United Kingdom

5th April 2016

Is that nobody seems to be able to decide what to refer to it as in forms.

Are we using UK (United Kingdom) or GB (Great Britain)? Or are we going for the home countries with SCO (Scotland), ENG (England), WAL (Wales), and NI (Northern Ireland) plus the channel islands etc? Or are we actively trying to confuse people by doing this:

What the hell.

OK I know we don’t exactly help ourselves, sporting teams have GB on them when referring to the United Kingdom and we ourselves do tend to use them interchangeably. However, when you’re designing a form, you don’t get to play fast and loose with things like this.

We’re used to having to look for the UK only to find that it’s not there, and then we will go back to looking for GB. Then if that isn’t there, we look for our home country. But seriously, the country’s name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK for short.

If you’re confused as to how one place can have so many names, please refer to this:

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Referring to the whole country as GB can actually be a little offensive if you don’t happen to live on the island of Great Britain (not majorly but it’s probably better when designing a form not to alienate respondents), just like calling the UK just ‘England’ can rub a lot of people up the wrong way.

And it’s not just the UK where this issue comes up. So many times on forms I see the country “America” listed. Now, most of you would assume that this is referring to the USA and that’s what the researcher means, but you can’t assume this. These sort of irregularities can seriously impact the results of your study (or analytics) just because your respondents or users are making assumptions based on your poor country list (we won’t even get into the issues surrounding “what is a country”).

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List the UK when you actually want the United Kingdom, list the home nations of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland etc when that’s what you need. Sorry not sorry for being so complicated.

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