Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Color and other Favorites: Microsoft Does UK English in the UI

Said it before, but the excuse that "you bought it from an American company" just isn't good enough as a response to Oracle user feedback about US spellings used in the UI (who reads that doc, anyway?). I've heard many times from customers outside the US that they're driven nuts by color, favorites, and so on, but also by US-centric terminology used in the UI. There is a serious UX downside to not letting customers have language the way they want it, and indeed the way their corporate culture, whatever about country or region, demands. Productivity, training, morale, loyalty are all impacted, and Oracle needs to respond.

Delighted to see that in time for International Mother Language Day 2012, Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 users in the UK will have UK English UIs. Well done Microsoft! I pointed out last year how Google already did this.

Oracle, too, is serious about a total user experience and giving customers what they want in their UIs, the means to easily change it, and to look up terms is now on the cards. Stay tuned for information on this.

Enterprise apps are under pressure from consumerization of IT trends.  Clearly, then Microsoft is responding to the market, a fact reflected by the release of an UK English Style Guide for Windows Phone. Mobile UX is one where consumerization cannot be so easily dismissed (SAP hasreleased a consumer mobile app too). Choice of language needs to reflect all this, too. 

If you want to er, complain to someone about US versus UK English in your Oracle apps UI, then contact me!

Friday Aug 19, 2011

UX On Your Terms: Terminology Considerations for Enterprise Apps

Terminology is a critical part of the user experience. Here's some guidance for enterprise apps UX designers to consider when creating designs and prototypes for testing.

  • When developing new terms, avoid puns, humor, jargon, symbols, or making up your own abbreviations or acronyms just to save space.

  •  Avoid compound words (that is, words consisting of multiple nouns and verbs), gerunds (that is, words ending in ing) and adjectives. These can be problematic for translation too.

  • When designing native mobile apps (for Android, iOS, Blackberry, and so on) or integrations with third-party applications, remember the user experience may require you to use terminology other than Oracle’s version of the term. In some cases, conflicts are inevitable, UX designers should be prepared to clarify to developers which version should be used and why.

    Apple iOS Starts term

    Oracle apps Starts term equivalent

Apple uses Starts and Ends in the iPhone Calendar. Oracle uses From Date and To Date, Effective Start Date and Effective End Date, From Date and To Date and so on in Oracle Fusion Applications.
  • The simple rule of terminology is that each term has only one meaning in that context. The same word can mean different things, depending how and where it is used.

    Supply a clear context for usage and a description for any new term requested. This information will be stored with the term. If you can, supply a screen shot of the prototype showing where and how the term is used to add more context. Specify what term should not be used in that context too--for example if users objected to particular terms during usability testing and you decided on something else, then include the rejected terms as deprecated versions of the approved one. 

  • Research your terminology and language style requirements. Never dumb down the language used in the UI. It is a critical part of the overall UX. If you believe a term or style is required in English then pursue it using UX testing and market justification. Terminology and style can be developed for new interactions in any language, for example, check out how Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 deal with these issues in Spanish and German respectively:





Double tap

Pulce dos veces

Touch and hold

Mantenga pulsado


Deslice el dedo







(Source: Welinske J, Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps)

Microsoft WP7 German style example

(Source: Microsoft)

Any other guidance on terminology for UX designers? Find those comments and share...

Wednesday Jan 05, 2011

Translation and Localization Resources for UX Designers

Here is a handy list of translation and localization-related resources for user experience professionals. Following some basic guidelines will help you design an easily translatable user experience.

Most of the references here are for web pages or software. Fundamentally, remember your designs will be consumed globally, and never divorce the design process from the development or deployment effort that goes into bringing your designs to life in code. Designers, ask yourself today: Do you know how the text you are using in your designs is delivered to the customer, even in English?

Key areas that UX designers always seen to fall foul of, in the enterprise applications space anyway, are:

  • Terminology that is impossible to translate (jargon, multiple modifiers, gerunds) or is used inconsistently.
  • Poorly written, verbose text (really, just write well in English, no special considerations).
  • String construction (concatenation of parts, assembled dynamically). This seems particularly problematic in search or calendar user interfaces. Days, weeks, months, and years are gender dependent in some languages. Thus, we have the composite messaging and positioning  issue (my favorite):
  • Hard-coded fonts, small font sizes, or character formatting or casing that doesn't work globally.
  • Format that is not separate from content. 
  • Restricted real estate not allowing for text expansion in translation.
  • Forcing formatting with breaks, and hard-coding alphabetical sorting in one language.
  • Graphics that do not work for bi-di languages (because they indicate directionality and can't flip) or contain embedded text. The problems of culturally offensive icons are well known by now in the enterprise applications space, though there are some dangers, such as the use of flags to indicate languages, for example.


Doc and help considerations I can deal with later.

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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