Localization of a rich text editor is complex. Perhaps more than any other application you need to work to understand foreign languages and how they are written. It’s an area where even the slightest mistake can make a world of difference between what you meant to convey and what is actually conveyed in your interface. When you are incorporating an editing tool into your application you need to ensure that your translations don’t cause your users confusion or you embarrassment. You need to ensure that the user interface works with Asian characters, right-to-left orientation and surprisingly long German words.
The team at Ephox has a lot of experience in delivering one of the best HTML editors to a global market. We incorporate only professional translations into EditLive! and work closely with translation and localization consultants to ensure an excellent user experience no matter which country or language you’re users are creating content in.
As the product manager for EditLive! for many years the process of localizing our software has opened my eyes to just how different the requirements of another language can be. So many elements of EditLive!’s design have had to be adjusted to ensure that the editor is truly international. From spell checking, to character set support, to right to left toolbar and menu orientation there’s a lot to work on.
Over time I’ve learned a lot about the process of localization including the complexity and some fun and interesting facts. So I thought I would share some now…
- Professional translations are so important. Particularly when you realize that English has too many words that mean more than one thing making context and QA so important for any translation. This can catch out even the most experienced translator and has certainly caught us on a rare occasion. Like the time EditLive! had “sheet” (as in Style Sheet) translated as “bed sheet” in Swedish instead of “sheet of paper”.
- Right to left interfaces aren’t the reverse of left to right interfaces – it’s just not that simple. Where the position of a button on the interface has a meaning it needs to stay there. In EditLive! you’ll see this with the alignment buttons for example. While much of the UI reverses around them these buttons stay in the same positions. Why? Because in Hebrew and Arabic left is still left and right is still right. If you reverse the buttons you end up with the left align button on the right and the right align button on the left and that’s confusing in ANY language.
- You can’t get a Japanese spell checker. You’d be surprised how often this question comes up but to the best of my knowledge you just can’t get a spell checker for Japanese. Instead, users rely on something that is closer to predictive text for content input.
- Hebrew and Arabic are the most complicated languages in the world to spell check – outside of Japanese, I guess where there’s no spell check available.
- Take care with legal standards and requirements that vary across countries. In the case of EditLive! the area where this matters most is accessibility where different countries have different compliance requirements.
- Strings are almost always longest in German. I don’t know why – it just is! As a result, we always “stress” test our UI internationalization with German strings.
- In Swedish, you can make new words by throwing multiple other words together. This makes me wish I spoke Swedish, though it does make spell checking tough.
Internationalization and localization of products is about more than fun and interesting factoids though. They are tasks that require skill and understanding of both software and languages. EditLive! is one of the best HTML editors available. It has been professionally localized for 32 different countries, includes a dozen spell checkers – with more available on request – and works with global standards.