13 Oct 2016

How to make sure your localised mobile app is readable to your users

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Even the best user interface design of your mobile app can fail to impress if the text isn’t readable. This obvious rule is often ignored in translation and localisation of mobile apps. As result, spotless and attractive design of the original app is nearly ruined in the localised versions.

There are a number of steps you can take to ensure readability of your localised app:

 

1. Don’t reduce the font to fit more text

For languages that are usually longer than English, such as German, Polish or French, more space might be required to fit in all localised strings. Informing your translators or localisers about the character limitations that can’t be exceeded is the most efficient way to maintain the attractive original design. Otherwise you’ll end up resizing buttons or menus, or what’s worse, reducing fonts to the nearly unreadable size. If you don’t want your users to use a magnifying glass to read the text in your app, do make sure that the localised strings are not too long or too small. 

 

screenshot_2016-02-03-21-15-19

Pou in the Polish version: some strings in the app are so small that you won’t be able to read without a magnifying glass…

 

2. Make some room for creative solutions

Sometimes, no matter how skillful your translators or localisers are, it might be challenging to localise your app strings in a readable and meaningful way. Some words and phrases can’t be expressed in other languages if there are strict character limitations. Abbreviating the words isn’t always the best idea, as it may confuse your users. If you don’t feel like redesign the buttons or menus to fit more (readable) text, try to suggest alternative solutions. Maybe there are sign or symbols in the target culture that can be used in the localised app instead of words? Consult your localisers to see if your text can be converted to graphics that will be meaningful and clear to your users.

 

3. Test your app to review readability

 

Finally, don’t forget to run a localisation test that would focus on readability issues as well. Make sure your testers report any strings with incorrect size, missing white spaces between lines and in the margins or insufficient contrast between the text and background that makes the strings melt away. Remember to double check for overlapping or cut-off strings as well. Anything that makes your users wonder about the meaning of the buttons, menu items or notifications in your app will definitely decrease your chances for a positive app review in the app store.

 

 

Your users have to be able to interact with words in your app to understand it and benefit from its functionality. Whether you offer your app only in one or in multiple languages, make sure that in every single version your product is easy on the eye and doesn’t confuse your users.

What do you think are other methods to make sure your mobile app has no readability errors?

 

 

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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