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Preparing User Interface for Localization

Not only must content that appears in the user interface (UI) be localized, but also the UI itself must be capable of displaying the content for each localization instance. Here are some considerations:

  • Size the UI to accommodate the largest localized version of the content.
  • Do not mingle strings with controls, such as placing a text box in the middle of a sentence. Doing so would require the localization vendor to modify the UI to accommodate grammatical differences that cause sentence structures to change.
  • Avoid hiding or overlapping UI controls with other UI controls. Some localization tools are not able to display each state of the UI to identify conflicts with displaying localized controls. Also, adjusting the layout of layered controls is more difficult than adjusting the layout of controls that are not layered.
  • Avoid placing button text in a string variable. Doing so might prevent the localization vendor from localizing the string in the appropriate context because they will not be aware of which button the string appears on at run time. Instead, place button text in a property for the button.
  • Avoid culture-specific images. A common example of this mistake from earlier UIs is the use of the rural mailbox found in the United States as an icon for mail. This type of mailbox is unfamiliar to some cultures outside of the United States.
  • Avoid showing flesh, body parts, or gestures. Exposure of some body parts in one culture might not be acceptable in another. Also, using hand gestures can present problems since an innocent hand gesture in one culture can have an offensive interpretation in another.
  • Beware of gender-specific roles and stereotypes in other cultures. The roles for men and women vary across cultures. Also, the portrayed ethnicity or race of an individual can also present problems. If displaying a graphic showing people, it is safer to use one that does not indicate a particular sex, race, or ethnicity.
  • Avoid religious preferences. As with race and ethnicity, be very cautious about employing the use of religious symbolism. Some symbols can be innocuous in some cultures and sacrilegious in others.
  • Avoid political symbols. In some markets, your application might first require government approval. Avoid graphics such as flags or currency and exercise caution when including maps that include disputed political boundaries or contentious location names.
  • Avoid text in graphics. Graphics that include embedded text are expensive and timely to localize, as they generally require the localization vendor to manually edit the graphic.