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A-Z of Translation – the letter U:

The letter U sees us getting down and digital:

User interface – In an increasingly digital age, most of us spend a lot of time interacting with software in one form or another, from phone apps and online shopping sites to work-related programs.

Obviously, we expect to communicate with the software in our own language, but translating user interfaces often throws up problems. If the product is designed and created in English, there may only be very limited space available for “yes” and “no” options in a form, for example, ignoring the fact that the foreign-language equivalents may be longer. Address forms are another minefield – address formats vary from country to country and from language to language, so a different number of lines is often needed. And while we are used to putting house numbers at the start of a line, in other languages they follow the street name and come at the end. All these factors need to be considered.

Deeply embedded error messages and function or form names are also an issue. Customers of at least one UK bank in foreign ownership will have seen bits of text popping up in another language. Cultural aspects likewise play a role – in some countries, customers/users may be happy to be welcomed by their first name, while in others a more conservative approach is normal.

Producing a really clean user experience is a formidable challenge. Deciding to “just translate the existing interface” is typically not an appropriate strategy.

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