The Impact Of Translation On The User Experience (UX) | Stillman Translations
The Impact Of Translation On The User Experience (UX)

User experience or UX is not really new, but it resurfaced and gained the spotlight with the rise of digital products. When designing and translating platforms, apps, online conferences, etc., UX must always be contemplated. How will people navigate and understand what we’re offering? Why will they choose our products or services before others?

User experience is especially paramount in two cases: for apps or services that are meant to be used all over the world or aim to escalate to a broader audience, and for services like banking, medical care, mobility, where usability and understanding are key factors, and a good translation is what makes everything run smoothly. 

In industries where the user experience is critical, information must be clear, procedures are of great relevance and there is substantial emotional weight from the user’s perspective. People often think of UX mostly as easy-to-use designs and copy, but proper translation is imperative for the improvement of the overall experience. 

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Focusing on a wonderful UI/UX design can sometimes miss the obvious, which is the translation. Though, in digital products, it becomes transcreation: the translator needs to recreate the app experience for a different culture that uses a different language.

Translation, localization, transcreation, and UX

The best UX designers obsess over the flawless user experience of their products. They are aware of the potential impact of each word, color, image, error message because it directly affects how the product, and brand, will be perceived. And a lot of money goes into this: companies invest in this research more and more. Knowing that, and the amount of work it takes to create an amazing experience, who would think that translation means copying and pasting literal phrases and launching the product? Ideally, no user should detect that the original product stems from a completely different country and cultural background. And that’s hard work.

Do I always need more than translation?

Does this apply to all translating needs? No, you must decide if you want the copy translated or localized. For legal text, you may need it exactly as written. Or maybe you want to A/B test a very specific sentence. Translation, which means taking content from one language and directly converting it into another or to the closest equivalent, will be enough for these cases. And even then, human translation is recommended, because machines often make mistakes. Machine translations are culture and language-blind: for example, Google Translate will insist on translating gender-neutral Japanese honorific さん (san) into English as ‘Mr’.  

And sometimes machine translation can be plain wrong, like the following banner sported in a temple in Japan: ‘Please close the sliding door to prevent monkey invasion’. The wording decision was clearly made by a translation software tool, as any human translator would know that “invasion” was probably not the most faithful translation to the meaning of the phrase.

So if you need more than a word-for-word conversion, localization is the way to go. It moves beyond words to consider the cultural expectations of an audience. And transcreation goes beyond still, adapting the very nuances which may result in, for example, the slogan of a brand completely changing from one country to another because the wordplay wouldn’t make sense somewhere else.

Impact of translation in UX design

UX design has a direct, very noticeable, impact. Not only interpretation-wise, but translation will even change the interface when designing, so it’s not something to be considered at the end of a process, but from the very beginning. For example, Latin and most Western languages use spaces to separate words. However, East Asian languages such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean may not use spaces to separate words. Instead, they rely on syllable boundaries. 

UX design helps companies to deliver the best solutions for their business while being respectful of users, not only with regards to their needs but also to their mindset and culture. As the UX Collective states, “a beautiful (i.e. effective) product, as for UX design, is not likely to be faithful to its original version when it becomes available to a different country. The UX design team must take action to align the experience delivered to different cultures, tastes, and styles”.


Therefore, here are some of the basics they state that must be taken into account:

Converting units of measure, currency, dates format, phone numbers.

Not only to be thoughtful towards users but to maintain the integrity of saved data when a product or service expects user input. Do your database a favor!

Adapt layout to text requirements.

As previously mentioned, German will be considerably longer than, for example, English copy. Or Koreans may not use spaces to separate words. This will mess up a non-adaptive layout. In an interview, Sonia Sánchez Moreno, Director of Sylaba Translations, points out that the Spanish language expands about 30% over English. A translator can save you significant money on redesigning parts of your product where translations won’t fit.

The different meanings of visuals and media

As this article states, some objects, animals, and gestures can bring a wide range of different meanings according to each country. They may differ between different cultures in often quite significant ways. The same goes for colors.

What will Localisation or proper translations in UX provide me?

Effective SEO:

If the right keywords are chosen, users will find your website more easily, and start off with a great user experience. Moreover, your content won’t land in the wrong keyword searches that make it irrelevant.

Increased trust:

Translation typos can be funny, but when the joke is over, they can harm your brand. As you can imagine, people won’t feel completely safe when completing transactions on a platform where the step by step could mean something else. People should feel safe to focus on what they need to, and not on interpreting your landing page.

Competitive advantage:

A sound translation will make you a better choice in the eyes of our users, and improve your local positioning.

Greater reach:

All of this, of course, will make your brand a great option for a much broader audience. Which means more opportunities, growth, and revenue.

At Stillman, we are a multilingual service provider that can set the world as your goal. If what you read here strikes close to home, don’t hesitate in contacting us.