I live in Germany and I often face the problem digitalisation of govermental services. I want to rethink “Verwaltung” or in english "Administration" and put users in the center of digital process development. I had the opportunity to visit the office of “Finanzamt Berlin” and to speak with people working there on the project “ELSTER”. The Portal of registration of a business is currently available only in German. However, there are many citizens in Germany who need to sign up for their new business and don't speak, read or write in German.
The goal of my project is multilingualism of the portal. Users should be able to select their native language. The different languages, however, pose challenges to design of the interface, for example, languages which use the following scripts are written left to right In my project I present a new design in different languages for the business service.
I made the classification of the language and quote some interesting facts. The research dealt with the life of Foreigners in Berlin. I researched valuable tips, which are necessary to multilingualism in interface design to be considered appropriately. Some interesting facts that found due my research.
When you offer content in several languages, it’s best not to rely on translation software. Ask a professional human translator or a native speaker.
A multilingual website is useless without the ability to change languages. You can use a dropdown, placed top-right on the page (for left-to-right content the top left corner is more suitable). You might also find switchers in the footer . Whichever pattern you go for, make sure that the dropdown is easy to see and access.
Flags are very often used to indicate a language. But you should know that:
- Flags represent countries, not languages.
- A country can have more than one official language.
- A language can be spoken in more than one country.
- Visitors might not recognize a flag (because of the icon size) or they might be confused by similar flags.
Your content needs to be readable. Don’t forget that certain languages are more “wordy” and therefore take up more space. A button ‘add to cart’ might be translated in Dutch to ‘aan winkelwagen toevoegen’. The English version consists of 11 characters, the Dutch version 25, taking up twice as much space. Non-Latin fonts may need a different line-height, or character size, to your Latin default. Chinese characters, for example, are visually more complex than Latin characters, meaning they need to be large enough for clear distinction.
Countries have differing ethical views. There’s a culture-specific nature of sexuality, humor, symbolism, etc. which is easily overlooked when translating a website. For example: in certain countries it’s perfectly acceptable to show a photo of a gay couple, while other countries might find this offensive.
Here is a presentation of my research (in german).