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.