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These UI Design Principles Will Make Your App a Global Hit

Designing an app that should transcend national and cultural borders is a bold endeavor. These principles will make sure that UI design works in your favor!

Here comes the first question: should your mobile app/website have a default language setting? There are tons of apps out there that determine languages based on the user’s IP address or system setting (often represented by national flags). While this practice may be common and the flags beautiful, it is often not the best solution.

The downside is that it overlooks countries with more languages in use. For example, there are 22 official languages in India. In a quickly diversifying world, it is important that your app reflects the needs of as many people as possible.

Therefore, it is recommended that you always have a “gateway” to your app or website’s main page that allows your users to pick the language. In other words, the first time a user logs in or opens the app, he/she should be the one who determines in what language the content is shown. Also, the user should be free to change languages at any time.

Moreover, to represent languages, use locale names instead of national flags. For example, if your website is for Spanish speakers in the United States, you can mark it as Español (Estados Unidos).

One challenge of internationalization is to get the encoding correct. Languages such as English and Spanish are single-byte and generally wouldn’t have any problem appearing in a browser. However, for languages like Chinese, Korean and Arabic, you need to make sure your coding structure is well configured to maintain these language characters (e.g., encode with UTF-8); otherwise, these “double-byte” languages won’t show correctly in your app.

If I give you 01/11/20, you probably know it is a date. But what date is it specifically? Is it November 1 or January 11, 2020? While you may be familiar with the DD/MM/YY date format, it may differ across regions and countries. And sometimes, if you just put dd/MM/YY your potential users won’t even understand what it means.

Cultural patterns are what make each market distinct. Do some research on your target market’s cultural patterns before actually diving into it. For example, is the symbol you use culturally relevant? Are there any cultural taboos you want to avoid? Answering these questions will eventually boost trust in your product or service.

While you need to beware of the cultural differences across regions where you sell your products or service, also be sure to keep a consistent global brand image.

To do this, you may either choose to use a layout template (there are already tons of them), or create your own customized version that is specifically configured to meet your internationalization needs. Overall, each language variant of your website or mobile app should have the same flavor when it comes to your brand image and delivers similar user experiences. Once you have a consistent template for UI design, expenses on things like adding new features (like buttons) and new languages would drop significantly.

Before you import your HTML data for translation, you should know that the resulting translation would seldom have exactly the same length as your source content. If you translate from English into languages like Russian or Ukrainian, it is likely that your resulting text would expand by at least 30%. Conversely, if your target language is Chinese or Japanese, the content may shrink by about 10% to 15%, which may make your UI aesthetically undesirable.

Therefore, should you have a “fixed” UI structure that does not change with the size of your content, your text boxes, buttons, and other fields would just not be able to fit. Fixing them manually one by one would then cost you a significant amount of money that would otherwise be saved.

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