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]

Thursday May 12, 2011

English as a Source and Target Language: The UX Dimension

I am often bemused by translation (or localization if you're outside the enterprise apps space) discussions on the interwebs that assume the source material for translation is always English and that the target language is always something else. The reality, of course, is different. There is a user-generated content explosion and much of which needs to be translated into English or other languages for global and community support reasons, multinational enterprises create content in languages other than English that may be relevant across their organization in other countries, and therefore needs translation, and so on.

And then we have the age-old debate about US English versus UK English. Some say it doesn't matter that UK English users receive US English content. Claims are made that UK users can 'figure it out' or are already so familiar with US culture that the differences in terminology or spelling between the two country variants  of English (yes, I know there are other variants) are transparently consumed.

I disagree. I think there is an important user experience (UX) dimension here. Admittedly hard to quantify in tangible terms, the use of the local variant in content is important and has an impact on user perception of the product. It can also have wider implications. Users who see themselves coldly described as  "ID  #" in a screen or help system when they should be called "Employee", "Associate", "Partner", or whatever, are hardly likely to warm to a product with hostile language and it certainly does nothing for corporate culture. In other words, the UX is diminished. Does it always have to be that way? No.

Google has done a very good job in providing US and UK users with versions of the Chrome browser that reflect the differences in terminology and spelling. This is done by allowing the user to select the version they want at download time, and then by language, regional detection (the web-based help using en-GB for UK users for example). Check out the following screens. See how "preferences" becomes "options", "hood" becomes "bonnet", "wrench" becomes "spanner", and "customize" becomes "customise". Did Google do this just because they could? Doubt that very much.

Under the Hood

Preferences and Under the Hood in US version.

Under the Bonnet

Options and Under the Bonnet in UK version.

Hood and Wrench

Wrench and Under the Hood in US version error page.

Bonnet and Spanner

Spanner and Under the Bonnet in UK version help system.


Customize in US version UI tooltip.


Customise in UK version UI tooltip.

Nice job.

This is something we need to explore further with enterprise application users. Users should have the language they use in their workplace or at home and not that of another country or region.

If they can't have that, then at least they should be able to change it easily to whatever they do want. That's what user-centered design and UX is all about.

Wednesday Feb 23, 2011

Oracle User Productivity Kit Translation

Oracle's customers just love the User Productivity Kit (UPK). I hear only great things about it from our international customers at the Oracle Usability Advisory Board meetings too. The UPK is the perfect solution for enterprise applications training needs (I previously "eviewed a fine book about UPK btw).

One question I am often asked is how source content created using the UPK can be translated into another language. I spoke with Peter Maravelias, Principal Product Strategy Manager for UPK about this recently.

UPK is already optimized for easy source-target translation already. There is even a solution for re-recording demos. Here's what you can do to get your source content into another language:

  • Use UPK's ability to automatically translate events and actions. UPK comes with XML templates that allow you to accomplish this in 21 languages with a simple publishing action switch. These templates even deal with the tricky business of using gender-based translations.
Spanish localization template sample

Japanese localization template sample

  • Use the Import and Export localization features to export additional custom content in a format like XLIFF, easily handled by translation tools. You could also export and import in Word format.
  • Rerecord the sound (audio) files that go with the recordings, one per screen. UPK's granular approach to the sound files means that timing isn't an option. Retiming demos isn't required. A tip here with sound files and XLFF-exported custom content is to facilitate translation context by avoiding explicit references to actions going on in the screen recordings. A text based storyboard with screenshots accompanying the sound files should also be provided to the translators. Provide a glossary of terms too.
  • Use the re-record option in UPK to record any demo from a translated application. This will allow all the translated UI labels to be automatically captured. You may be required to resize any action events here due to text expansion issues. Naturally, you will need translated data in the translated application too, so plan for this in advance. However, source-target language skills aren't required for the re-recording.

The UPK Player itself, of course, is also available from Oracle along with content and doc in 21 languages. The Developer and Setup is also translated in a smaller number of languages. Check the Oracle UPK website  for latest details. UPK is a super solution for global enterprise applications training deployments allowing source content to be translated into multiple languages easily. See this post on the UPK blog for more insight too!

I would like to thank Peter for his time in talking with me.


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. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @localization



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