15 Oct 2014

5 features of great multilingual applications

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Developing a multilingual app isn’t limited to the mere replacement of the strings in one language to another. There are many more issues to address to make your application ready for users around the world. Below you’ll find several features that can make your multilingual app successful:

1. Language selection screen within the application

This is a better solution than a language box displayed during the installation process. If you include a language selection option within the application,
the user will be able to change it anytime without reinstalling the software. Another good solution is to build a language screen that opens at the first application runtime. In this case the selected language should be saved for the future use, so that the users don’t have to indicate their language every time.

2. Language names rather than flags

Once you design a selection screen within the application, make sure the users can see the language names in their native languages. The use of flags is
a sensitive issue, as there are countries where more languages are spoken (e.g. Canada, Switzerland, Belgium) or minority groups that don’t feel they belong to the particular country. So, forcing the users to choose a flag or name of a specific country may cause their annoyance or confusion.

3. User interface adjusted to every single language version

This means that there should be no truncated text in your application and enough white space to make your product easily readable. It’s a good practice to adjust all UI elements containing text to the new language version, e.g. resize buttons, boxes or menus. Colours may have to be adjusted too, as their meaning vary from one culture to another.

4. Correctly displayed dates and currencies

Calendar formats, measurements, phone numbers, currencies and addresses are just a few examples of items that have to be changed in your multilingual app. Forms that have to be filled in by the user need to be designed in a way that allows country specific input, e.g. for postcode formats.

5. Clear icons and symbols that convey the right message

There’s nothing more confusing than images that have nothing to do with
the content or reflect the message that can’t be clearly understood. Before using
an icon or symbol in place of a button name or any other element, make sure it’s appropriate in the target culture and doesn’t insult your users. Otherwise, your multilingual application won’t be appealing and may fail to yield the substantial economic benefits related to localisation.

 

These are just a few great and necessary features that can contribute to a global success of your multilingual application and win the heart of your target users. Whatever the content of your application is, you’ll need to analyse its every element and see if it can be adjusted to the requirements and expectations
of your international users.

  

 

About the author: Dorota Pawlak
Dorota helps businesses, organisations and individuals to communicate successfully across cultures in the online and offline world. She is an entrepreneur and a qualified translator specialising in IT and localisation of websites, games and software.

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