By Francesco Pugliano, Head of Mobile Localization – eBay.
This post originally appeared on Francesco’s blog, Localization in Silicon Valley, and is re-posted with permission.
When designing a mobile app, one of the things a designer should keep in mind is translated text expansion. Probably this doesn’t come as something new; there’s a whole literature on the subject.
However, when designing and localizing a mobile app you should also avoid other layout tricks that as a designer you might be tempted to try. I recently stumbled upon an app for iPhone that struck me for its peculiar use of ellipses.
What are ellipses? As a convention, ellipses in UI text are used in the following cases:
To indicate that a command needs additional information.
To indicate that text is truncated.
To indicate that a task is in progress (for example, “Searching…”)
Normally, when the translated text expands too much, the designer would use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence.
In this case Italian expands by approx 40%. Japanese seems to be aprox the same length as the English.
English: New message (11 characters)
Italian: Nuovo messaggio (15 characters)
The funny thing is that in this specific app, the designer used an ellipses in the middle of the text, and not at the end where it should normally be.
As a result, the meaning of the Italian translation is not “New Message” but “New essay”. That’s what “saggio” means in Italian.
Why the developer didn’t stick to widely accepted conventions on the use of ellipses? This is still a mystery to me.
I’ve never been a big fan of ellipses used to indicate that a text is truncated. I believe that a better practice would be to implement the convention of scrolling text. Like a ticker message that scrolls across the screen letting the user read the entire string from beginning to end. On mobiles, this is used a lot in lists in the body of a window. And while I haven’t seen it used in the window title of an app, it would be a worthy experiment for design engineers to figure out.
Other posts by Francesco:
Writing or Translating for Mobile