Live from UXPABOS: Speak Their Language

Speak Their Language, by Zara Fishkin

UXPA Boston logoWith localized products, more people can access your services, and more people can use your services more effectively. Plus it contributes to revenue.

On a human level… more people feel represented with localized products.

Localization at Facebook

Zara writes for the user interface. More than a billion people a day use Facebook, and about 85% of them are outside the US. But even within the US, many people speak and read in French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Facebook’s localization goals:

  • Remove barriers to using products due to localization
  • Deliver the right cultural experiences to people
  • Build at scale

Best Practices in Localization

Start with formative research. In addition to listening to what your participants are saying, it’s important to hear how they’re saying it. For example, do they use English words or other words to refer to technical terms.

Test designs. What does right to left vs left to right look like? Does the test expand well? Do the labels need to be center aligned? Can the alignment switch?

Challenge your assumptions. Green is not always good in every culture. You may need to switch colors in every market, or make sure color is not the only way you’re identifying good/bad. (This is also part of good accessibility!)

Reflect your audience. Don’t use white male hands as the visuals all the time! Don’t make every example a white guy named John Smith.

Keep it short and simple. A native English speaker with low literacy skills will benefit as well as an ESL speaker. Clear is clear.

Avoid colloquialisms and jargon. Does “A+” mean anything outside the US? “Good job” is easier to understand! “Sounds good” is another common one.

Clarify ambiguous language. Words like “balance” that might mean two things need more context or descriptions.

Watch out for parameters. Parameters are great for coding, but make translations tricky. You may need to limit scope – in English a name and a page name might use the same grammatical structure, but in Japanese names need an honorific and page names don’t. Equally, gendered nouns in other languages can make words like “the” and “this” break with English-based parameters.

Collaboration Best Practices

Collaborate with translators. Make sure translators know the audience, the business goals, the voice and tone, and notes for tricky content.

Hire diverse teams. The more languages the team speaks (particularly native speakers), the stronger the projects will be. However, it is not someone’s job to QA your work just because they speak the language! So be considerate.

Research Best Practices

Evaluate what you translated. Get feedback, and listen to it.

Speak Your Team’s Language

Localization isn’t only for big companies. The US is big and diverse. And doing right by your users also helps your business. Everyone has a role to play in localization.

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