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Lindie Botes

App design for the world: considering languages, scripts and digital literacy

The majority of the world’s internet users are mobile-based. Creating apps and mobile sites that cater to various cultures, languages, levels of digital literacy and writing systems is key. As a UI/UX designer and language learner, I’m particularly interested in this intersection of languages and design. The focus of this talk is how through language and visuals, designers and developers can create apps to better support and empower a global, multilingual audience.

First, I’ll take a look at how different countries approach app design, exploring the super-app in Asia to crowded interfaces in Japanese and less-information dense apps in other markets. I’ll provide examples of see how apps cater to different writing directions and spacing. How also can designers use accessibility to cater for the use of screen-readers?

Then, I elaborate on how localising an app for different countries is more than just using Google Translate on the screens. How can we convey cultural nuances through language usage? Language needs to be linguistically and culturally accurate to create simple experiences where users feel heard, understood, and engaged.

I’ll also show examples of how changing words affects the way users interact with apps, like changing complex language or adding words to buttons. Explore with me how language in app design plays an important role in catering to people with varying degrees of digital and linguistic literacy.

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32 Comments

  • Gui says:

    so in terms of language content in a linear space, 中文像是zipped仍可運行的檔案,Hungarian ‘s like running a file only when unzipped. THANKS for pointing out the emoticons. they should be used sparingly, like punctuations, so that our text messages would be more inclusive to people who need to “listen” with devices

  • Feilin says:

    Cher Lindie,

    Merci pour ta présentation ! Récemment j’ai eu cette expérience aussi que j’ai eu l’expérience que j’ai écrit un document en chinois et j’étais étonnée d’apprendre qu’il était 3 à 4 fois plus long lorsque je l’ai traduit en français.
    Je travaille avec un groupe d’artistes chinois, et de temps en temps j’aide à traduire ces textes en l’anglais. La chose la plus importante pour eux c’est d’économiser les lettres, donc mes traductions sont grammaticalement horribles et je dois omettre beaucoup d’informations importantes simplement parce qu’ils donnent la priorité à l’aperçu sur la page. Honnêtement, je pense que pour nous, la traduction anglaise ne sert qu’à les se percevoir comme plus internationaux donc c’est moins important que ce soit une communication que ‘une image d’anglais. Je crois que personne qui regarde nos publications parle mieux l’anglais que le chinois. (Nous publiions sur wechat.) As-tu des suggestions pour cette situation où le client privilège l’esthétique à la traduction précise ?
    autres réponses;
    -Je pense que je préfère la versionne japonaise, car j’aime bien voir tous les infos au début.
    -Merci pour parler pour les émotions et les lectures d’écran. C’est un sujet important.
    Et merci pour partager tes connaissances avec nous !
    Bisous !
    Feilin

  • RonP says:

    Hi Lindie! Thank you for your presentation, it brought back memories of my time working as a translator/editor and occasionally having to localise different ‘texts’ across different medium/formats/platforms, where the design and layout in the final ‘product’ also played a key role. Such a fascinating area!

    I also liked how you touched on accessibility in terms of screen readers and icons, and what this involves – such an important issue for those who cannot access information in certain ways, as I saw with several students at university.

    Lastly, it was interesting to see the difference between the Japanese newspaper flyer, with so much information (and that for a high-context language), and the Chinese app layout, with more space.

  • pluieche says:

    Thank you Lindie!

  • Ermy says:

    What a great presentation.. Like you, I have an artistic background which led me later on to languages so it was very interesting to look at all those examples of interfaces and websites also … I feel less crazy when out of curiosity, I check out website in different languages to see what it looks like (I’m not alone!) ! 🤣

  • Zainah says:

    Great talk!

  • Nathalia says:

    thanks for the amazing presentation! as someone who loves languages and is thinking about studying visual arts, I really enjoyed the video ❤

  • Sofia says:

    This was so interesting! Thank you!

  • skanne says:

    どうもありがとうございました! 你的演讲非常鼓舞人心和有趣。Ek werk in die dieselfde gebied soos jy, en ek is baie lief vir altyd gee gebruikers die beste moontlike ervaring. Je travaille pour une grande société internationale de logiciels basée en Allemagne. Y aunque el idioma de negocios es el inglés, siempre me esfuerzo por hacer que nuestras interfaces de usuario no solo sean atractivas, sino también accesibles – both for the users with special needs and for those who have different cultural and linguistic backgrounds (e.g. LTR vs RTL scripts, compact vs. lengthy languages in writing, français vs québécois …) than our mainstream users. Ich würde mich freuen, wenn sich unsere Wege mal auf einer Polyglottkonferenz o.ä. kreuzen. Még egyszer köszönöm!

  • harichaart says:

    This was so interesting! Thanks Lindie 🙂

  • Hi Lindie, thanks heaps for your really great presentation. I learned so much! Especially because I’ve never really stopped to think about app design and functionality like this before!

  • Jhony Andrade says:

    Such an interesting presentation. Thanks Lindie!

  • Alexander says:

    Great job, Lindie! I really appreciated such a high-quality presentation (though I think your vlog is already pretty high quality, so maybe it wasn’t so hard for you). I work in web developmnt and have been on localization projects, so it was nice to see you dig in with such great examples. Can’t wait to see more presentations from you in the future.

  • lindiebotes says:

    @Edmund is jy Afrikaans? Baie dankie dat jy gekyk het!

  • PaulieM says:

    Thanks for a really interesting presentation, communicated really well with so much enthusiasm! I look forward to you opining more on this subject,

    Cheers! Paulie

  • ecluna77 says:

    Yes, you talked about Gojek – a lifesaver the previous two times I visited Bali!

  • Edmund says:

    Hi Lindie. Ek wou sê jou naam en van is defnitief Afrikaans. Dankie vir ‘n baie interessante praatjie. Well done ah!

  • lindiebotes says:

    @Julia those are really interesting thoughts. I don’t know a lot about assistive technology and what the developments are, but I do know there are a few different types of screen readers that have marginal differences. Some are better at reading emojis, but maybe that’s something they are considering for future developments. Great things to think about!

  • lindiebotes says:

    @LindaDE hello! Thank you so much. Oh, that’s an excellent question. I’ve thought about this for sure, but I also think the market is quite saturated with language learning apps at the moment. I’d need more time to think about a solid concept. I’m much more of a visual designer than I am a concept creator, so maybe I can work with a team and do the design – two or more brains are better than one!

  • lindiebotes says:

    @Eriko thank you for watching! I’d love to know if you have any experiences navigating different websites or apps in Japanese vs other languages and if it feels any different to you?

  • lindiebotes says:

    @Basavoy I’m so curious to know what about the app exactly feels different or frustrating to you! Sometimes Korean mobile websites aren’t great experiences in general – and apps are slowly becoming a lot better than they were 5 or so years ago. Thanks for watching!

  • So useful, thanks Lindie! The character expansion information was particularly helpful. We have to deal with word count expansion all the time at my company (since we bill translations by the word) but we’re starting to have to pay more attention to character expansion as well, as we’re handling more subtitling and website translations. Keep up the good work!

  • basavoy says:

    I always think it’s amazing how language and culture affect each other, and applying this to the digital world is so interesting! When I use Naver to look something up in Korean I get frustrated with the phone app because it’s set up in a way I’m not used to, but it probably works great for native Koreans!

  • Dear Lindie,

    This was such an amazing presentation that I had been anticipating ever since you revealed it some time ago! I love that you’ve considered something so esoteric but very ‘you’ in that sense. I feel like in the back of my mind, I knew that you were a designer of some sorts because of your beautiful and aesthetically-pleasing webpage!

    I really like how you considered different mindsets and paradigms of the different people who speak those languages, and infused those ideas into the overarching theme of your presentation. It was quite interesting to consider, especially in tandem with your highly multilingual and multicultural background.

    I’d love to talk sometime during the conference, or even after! I’m very excited to see what you have in store for the future!

    -Vikhyat (Vik)

  • elise1 says:

    Hi Lindie!

    I love your work and you’re a big inspiration to me with all the languages that you speak. This was such an interesting presentation, thank you for taking us into your world of design and language!

  • Eszter says:

    Thank you very much for your amazing presentation. I am also a UI/UX designer and I was also amazed to find these differences about design in different languages. I also agree that we all should focus on more also considering other languages and cultures.

  • Eriko says:

    Thank you for your wonderful presentation.

    Funnily enough, I never noticed that Japanese prefer jam packed style until you pointed it out. Very interesting.

    Eriko

  • Julia B. says:

    Hi Lindie,

    This was a great presentation ☺️ I am not in UI/UX design but have been working in demand management, passing on the requests to the designers. It’s really interesting to see it from the other side.

    Maybe this is for the Q&A, but I am curious about the part of impaired reading and sight readers in combination with smileys. Instead of limiting the usage, do you think a “smarter” sight reader, that is able to properly “translate” the intention of the smiley, e.g. “laughing smiley 20 times”, or a reader taking breaks when there is the clapping hands, could work? I feel there is still a lot of room for improvement, to “translate” from emoji to written language.

    Best regards,
    Julia

  • lucasfernandes says:

    Very insteresting presentation Lindie. You rock! 🙂

  • Candace says:

    Lindie!!

    Utterly blown away by your presentation.

    It’s such a pleasure to see you float in your domain (no pun intended) and I’m so excited where your ideas take you!

    Very inspiring. Well done!!

    Candace

  • LindaDE says:

    Hi Lindie,

    I really enjoyed this inside into app design in regards of different languages.

    Have you ever thought about developing your own language learning app and if so how would it look like?

  • Ttaliehh says:

    Thanks for this amazing video! I’m also a Graphic designer based in Iran ^^ and I related to your video so much!
    I’v to maintain that in the video( 22:42) the screen that you shared as an arabic page is actually a Persian(Farsi) page which is also read from right to left!
    Thanks again for this amazing information you shared!
    You can also learn Persian cause it’s so fun and valuable 😉

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