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I'm trying to come up with a pattern that will support globalization for user-entered data. For each language, the Admin User can enter a Name, Description, and possibly other fields for their own users within target locales. The pattern also needs to be flexible enough to support many different locales.

Here is one possibility: globalization tabs

This clearly conveys that the fields correspond to a particular language, and that they can enter data for multiple languages. However, it get's a bit messy when dealing with 10-15 locales (e.g. US Spanish, US English, CA English, CA French, etc).

Surely someone has already designed a good solution for this problem, I just haven't been able to find it.

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How used are your users to your platform? How used are you expecting them to be before they start using multiple languages? I'm thinking in the direction of Facebook, and how they handle translations through encouraging users to do it themselves, on hover over an item. –  Simon Oct 30 '12 at 19:39
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2 Answers

Depends on who is doing/using the translations and the problems they're facing.

A few things I've seen/done - often systems have multiple instance of these for different user groups / purposes.

  • Systems pretty much like the one you're outlining - but with popups / other navigation structures to flip between languages.

  • More grid-based systems where you have multiple languages displayed at one time in something like a spreadsheet view (rows = things to translate, columns = languages)

  • "Flow" based systems. Rather than presenting a navigational structure for users to navigate to a particular piece of info - the system instead just presents the 'next thing that needs to be translated'... so you get 'prompt -> translate -> next'

Some things to consider:

  • Are people starting with mostly empty translations (doing bulk translates) or mostly full (editing/tweaking translates). How does that effect what they're doing?

  • Do you have individual translators dealing with single, multiple, or all languages?

  • How do folk ensure consistency in tone/style/content between the translations?

  • How do you find 'gaps' in the translations - stuff that's been missed.

  • ... and probably some more I'm not remembering since I'm only on the second coffee of the day ;-)

Taking your proposed UI it looks like (to me - and I could be mistaken):

  • It's aimed at editing - not bulk translates - since there's a lot of navigation/hierarchy there to switch between panes

  • Individuals are translate more than one language - since you're presenting more than one language to the user

  • There don't seem to be obvious ways to do side-by-side comparisons so checking for tone/content consistency between translations may be tricky

  • Don't seem to be obvious ways of seeing where there are gaps

Hopefully that's some useful food for thought ;-)

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Thank you, these are some insightful comments. Usually, third party translators will be providing the content to our clients (as opposed to translation engines). So our clients will just be inputting the data to share with their associates and business partners in various countries (sometimes the goal is to collect data from these users as well, so they might also be translating custom form labels). Still, your suggestion for comparison tools will be valuable for some clients. –  Baa Oct 30 '12 at 15:50
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A few quick ideas:

  1. Have a list of the languages on the right in their own section and designate each language with text and an image (maybe a small flag?). Then when they select a language on the left, the detail information will be on the right. Each language can have it's own detailed information this way.
  2. Have a "drop down" (you can see how Skype has a unique way of displaying the language) that lets them toggle the language and update the fields accordingly.
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I like idea #1, I will sketch that out and see how it feels. I thought about #2 previously, but it seems to imply you have to select one language and not that all are available for editing. That could perhaps be overcome by using a different widget and not a regular drop down field, or a very carefully-worded label. Thanks for the input. –  Baa Oct 30 '12 at 15:32
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