Learning Curve…

7 basic tips for multi-lingual web sites…

Posted on: October 13, 2011

These days a number of web sites are deployed in multiple languages. As companies perform more and more business in other countries, the number of such global multilingual web applications will continue to increase.

1 – Prepare and use the required test environment

If a web site is hosted in English and Japanese languages, it is not enough to simply change the default browser language and perform identical tests in both the languages. Depending on its implementation, a web site may figure out the correct language for its interface from the browser language setting, the regional and language settings of the machine, a configuration in the web application or other factors. Therefore, in order to perform a realistic test, it is imperative that the web site be tested from two machines – one with the English operating system and one with the Japanese operating system. You might want to keep the default settings on each machine since many users do not change the default settings on their machines.

 2 – Acquire correct translations

A native speaker of the language, belonging to the same region as the users, is usually the best resource to provide translations that are accurate in both meaning as well as context. If such a person is not available to provide you the translations of the text, you might have to depend on automated web translations available on web sites like wordreference.com and dictionary.com. It is a good idea to compare automated translations from multiple sources before using them in the test.

 3 – Get really comfortable with the application

Since you might not know the languages supported by the web site, it is always a good idea for you to be very conversant with the functionality of the web site. Execute the test cases in the English version of the site a number of times. This will help you find your way easily within the other language version. Otherwise, you might have to keep the English version of the site open in another browser in order to figure out how to proceed in the other language version (and this could slow you down).

 4 – Start with testing the labels

You could start testing the other language version of the web site by first looking at all the labels. Labels are the more static items in the web site. English labels are usually short and translated labels tend to expand. It is important to spot any issues related to label truncation, overlay on/ under other controls, incorrect word wrapping etc. It is even more important to compare the labels with their translations in the other language.

 5 – Move on to the other controls

Next, you could move on to checking the other controls for correct translations and any user interface issues. It is important that the web site provides correct error messages in the other language. The test should include generating all the error messages. Usually for any text that is not translated, three possibilities exist. The text will be missing or its English equivalent will be present or you will see junk characters in its place.

 6 – Do test the data

Usually, multi-lingual web sites store the data in the UTF-8 Unicode encoding format. To check the character encoding for your website in mozilla: go to View -> Character Encoding and in IE go to View -> Encoding. Data in different languages can be easily represented in this format. Make sure to check the input data. It should be possible to enter data in the other language in the web site. The data displayed by the web site should be correct. The output data should be compared with its translation.

7 – Be aware of cultural issues

A challenge in testing multi-lingual web sites is that each language might be meant for users from a particular culture. Many things such as preferred (and not preferred) colors, text direction (this can be left to right, right to left or top to bottom), format of salutations and addresses, measures, currency etc. are different in different cultures. Not only should the other language version of the web site provide correct translations, other elements of the user interface e.g. text direction, currency symbol, date format etc. should also be correct.

As you might have gathered from the tips given above, using the correct test environment and acquiring correct translations is critical in performing a successful test of other language versions of a web site.

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