Thursday Oct 06, 2011

PayPal Error Message 3005: Where User Experience and Translatability Collide…

… and neither comes off very well. I received this huge error message as I was updating my credit card details in PayPal. I was working in the English language, yet this multilingual monster came my way.

PayPal Message 3005

Generally, these multilingual messages cause translatability issues. Most translatable files conform to a bilingual source-target paradigm, and not a multilingual one. The single language target enables better use of language assets and flexibility with process. Of course, the arrival of CMS and GMS-based translation solves a lot the coordination problems of keeping multiple languages translation in sync. It is also possible this message was served up from a server way rather than being actually multiple translations in a single container on the file system (I didn’t view the page source). Regardless, why bother? The users working language is known.

As for those message numbers (Message 3005), are users expected to look them up and act? Generally in the enterprise applications space these numbers are only useful to help desk or support personnel or specialized functional administrators with the right security permissions to actually do something with the application in response to looking up what that number means in a knowledge base. In this case, looking up the number leads to frustration too.

Dealing with these generic application failure issues has long been a user experience issue. If would have been better to throw a shorter specific message in my working language was shown, one with a more precise title, a cause text that reflected what I was doing, and a precise action text to perform to fix the issue. An assurance that my money and other personal details were safe too should have been provided. Making that message number and some diagnostics available on demand only, and capturing any details in the background so that a security specialist or other help desk person could check that none of my data was compromised would have been preferable. At least I was not told to contact my system administrator, so I am thankful for that!

Friday Aug 19, 2011

Translatability Best Practices for Doc and Help

Translatability guidance aimed at user experience (UX) designers who are prototyping doc and help interactions and content. Considering these points will make your content easier to translate. Areas for attention include respecting the demands of XML structured authoring (DITA, DocBook, or other), how to share content, avoiding  translatable attributes, not contributing to the horrors of hard-coded alphabetical sorting orders, steering clear of the PRE element for tables and such like, allowing for graphics text expansion and redraw,  taking care with indexing and keywords, dealing with UPK translation issues, and so on. [Read More]

Wednesday Jun 01, 2011

Comics: Translation and other Cultural Points to Consider

My Stand Up for Comics post garnered a lot of hits and comments. One of the references made in the comment section is to the  Duke University School of Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain's (CSPD) comic about the basics of copyright law, Bound by Law.

The comic is available under a Creative Commons license that allows you to also translate the comic into your language. Examples of French, Portuguese, and Italian versions of the comics are already available. Perusing the translated examples, and the "translation kit" sources it became clear that whereas the text on the cover, in speech bubbles, and in a few other places, is easily translated, other text (such as the names of creators and their work) is not, and the comics characters and their interactions themselves remain constant across all language versions.

Duke CSPD Italian, Portuguese and translation templage for Bound By Law  comic

Comic pages courtesy of the Duke University School of Law CPSD

So, arising, from all this, a number of questions arise for all aspiring comic creators and translators:

  • What is the best (in terms of ease or process compliance) translatable source? For example, are PhotoShop layered files (PSDs) the way to go? How about JPEGs? or XML? 
  • What translatability considerations have been made in the source content? For example, can the speech bubbles be resized to cater for text expansion, or contraction without obscuring the characters or other information?
  • How culturally applicable are the characters, the rest of the graphics, and even how the the action is portrayed? Do they need redrawing, replacement, or any other considerations? How will the comic's use of Onomatopoeia (those Ker-Pows! and so on) be handled? Check out this piece on how a Marvel Captain America comic was localized into French: "In other words, they are trying to translate the American Visual Language closer to French Visual Language.
  • What of the actual information being conveyed? Does it make sense once translated? The CSPD does offer the advice that translators to either rewrite relevant portions of the legal discussions to make them reflect the law of your jurisdiction, or post a warning conspicuously they are offering a translation of a comic book that discusses the situation of documentary filmmakers under United States law. Sounds like comics need localization, doesn't it?

Clearly, a fully-translated and culturally-applicable comic book delivery can be a significant, but worthwhile, undertaking. That's not to knock anyone's effort here, of course. Even a basic translation can raise the quality of debate and public information and lead to further investigation by readers, but it must be made clear to consumers that's the intention of what they're reading. Furthermore, it is obvious that with the use of comics as a global communications device (see this 200 page manga comic from the US Navy, for example), the demand for translation (to and from English) of comics will increase. There is already ample advice available on how to proceed with this task, and great information sharing is happening. Check out the collaborative comics translation website Comix Influx for a start!


Oracle Applications Cloud global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. A globally-savvy UX making it all fit together for Oracle's worldwide partners and customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!

Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @localization



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