Localization Best Practices: 5 Tips for Designers
Localization Best Practices: 5 Tips for Designers

Localization, or l10n for friends, is often thought of as a step up from translation. The reality is that localization involves more teams than just translators and copywriters. One of the first teams you’ll want to make sure is aligned with localization best practices is your design team: a common problem in localization processes is that design is meant to work perfectly with the source language, usually English, but doesn’t resonate with other languages.

So, if you want to make sure your product is ready for internationalization, here are 5 elements to keep in mind when designing for localization.

Design for RTL languages

Not all languages are written from left to right: Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu are some of the most popular right-to-left (RTL) languages. They represent millions of speakers and potential users for your product.

If you’re planning to localize into one of these languages, remember that your design should accommodate right-to-left elements. And it’s not just text elements: arrows, closing bars, check marks will also flip.

Keep in mind that there are some common exceptions to the RTL flip rule:

  • English elements in text
  • Numbers
  • Dates
  • Clockwise

Fonts and other alphabets

Another very common problem – when it comes to designing for localization – is that not all fonts work with all alphabets, and you don’t want to find out when your beautiful campaign is locked. For example, not all fonts will work with Korean scripts – better check with your localization managers first. 

Speaking of alphabets, there’s another important element to consider when choosing fonts for l10n: some languages, like Vietnamese and Thai, have tones – make sure you leave room for them if you want to avoid line overlaps.

Translated text expansion

Different languages require different amounts of space. This is important to keep in mind, especially if your designers work with English as a source language: translated text expansion will affect your design. Some data on the most common target languages for l10n:

  • English → Spanish stretches up to +30%.
  • English → German expands up to +35%.
  • English → Italian bounds up to +25%.
  • English → Arabic expands up to +25%.

This also means that you may experience problems with different line breaks and concatenation: LQA in Layout will come to your rescue in these cases.

Image localization

The localization process is all about making your product look and feel like it was originally designed for your market. This can’t happen if your images depict models, behaviors, and lifestyles that don’t resonate with the target audience. Would you show a fax machine in a campaign targeting GenZ users? 

Symbols and emojis

Symbols are culturally relative, and so are emoticons – the most commonly used symbols in our communications. Keep this in mind before baking any visual element into your design: what you consider cute may be cringe-worthy in other cultures, or worse – may have negative connotations.

Are you working in l10n as well? What are the most common problems you encounter when it comes to localization and design? Let us know in the comments!

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