Friday, December 19, 2008

Localization: Design Parameters

If localization is the key part of the project, as designers, it is important to know how will we localize? Would we outsource the solution to a vendor or build it inhouse. For larger projects, typically, English language is done inhouse and the solution is outsourced to translation companies for other languages. If the solution is smaller, say the content needs to be localized in one or two other languages, organizations might want to bring the localization experts inhouse so that the teams can work closely. Here are some general guidelines I learnt while working on localization projects:
General
  1. Think globally.
  2. Keeping data and functionality location independent.
  3. Different languages convey the same thought differently. Also, some languages are longer than others. Therefore, always, always, always leave room for text expansion in the page while designing space for text in buttons, menu items and paragraphs.
  4. Stick to the examples that have similar interpretation globally. For example, corporate scenarios, basic infographics (e.g. road symbols), and forces of nature. Avoid text and graphics of sports (rugby, baseball), gestures (thumbs up) and food do not work well for international examples. Also avoid numeric representation of dates. 
  5. Avoid cultural references.
  6. Avoid elements that a learner might associate with a specific country. For example flags, maps, and currency.
Graphics
  1. Avoid graphics with text. It is difficult to localize such content since it involves editing the image source files.
  2. Create multiple layer PSDs for all graphics. This allows the graphic artist to copy the localized text and paste it into the appropriate layer without cleaning text off graphics or changing the font. (Remember: Separate data and presentation)
  3. Blur text in images to make them unreadable if it does not need to be read by the learner. For example, pictures of whiteboards. The graphic artist might try to translate the text which would unnecessarily add to the cost of the project.
  4. Use short sentences in graphics to make it easier to localize into double-byte text like Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Since spaces between words are used less frequently in these languages, it becomes a challenge to accommodate the text in the graphic.
Text
  1. Identify text really needs to be localized and for which market.
  2. Plan for updates to the text, if needed. Are the updates geography specific?
  3. On buttons and labels allow for 75% text expansion, and for paragraphs of text allow for 30% text expansion.
    If the space does not allow for expansion, then the localization graphic artist must change the tracking or font size to fit the text. This can cause problems and reduce the quality of a graphic.
  4. Use standard fonts. Certain fonts do not support foreign characters.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Back Now...



It's been a long while since I last blogged! So much has happened since...I lost my father who I was very close to and whose passing away I am still to come to terms with, I became a mother of a beautiful baby boy, I moved overseas, changed my home a couple of times, got a new job and am now on the verge of being laid off. Phew! We will see how the last one turns out. For now, I should blog more regularly...atleast better than what I've been doing for the last one year or so.