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We are building a data community for both the Chinese and the English market and we hope the audiences with different languages blend in as one.

So we don't want to go with the traditional language switch for the entire user interface but instead use 2 languages on all interface elements.

For example the top menu would be something like:

  1. 首页 / Home
  2. 定价 / Pricing
  3. 文档 / Docs

Buttons would be like:

  1. 确定 / OK
  2. 取消 / Cancel
  3. 下一步 / Next step

Texts of both versions may be aligned horizontally or vertically depending on the space or design for the element.

Is this desirable in user experience? Did anyone try this approach before and did it work out? Potential problems?

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    "audiences with different languages blend in as one" Is this the primary reason behind keeping both the languages on the screen at once? Because, menu items and buttons might have small labels but what about the actual data on the screen? Will that follow the same patterns? – Shreyas Tripathy Jan 31 '19 at 5:56
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    It's an observational rule that merging and blending is generally a wrong approach, instead of differentiating and branching. You might want to read how this is elaborated in "The Origin of Brands: How Product Evolution Creates Endless Possibilities for New Brands" by Al Ries and Laura Ries. – drabsv Feb 1 '19 at 17:47
5

The concept you are proposing will certainly pose a challenge for the UI designers because you will need to reserve twice as much screen space for labels and text. There are a number of things too take into consideration before going this route.

Pro

A non-chinese speaking user can immediately use the site and find the appropriate fields or vice versa.

Important con's to consider:

  • The extra screen space needed to accommodate the additional text could be used for content instead. In the end it's the content which creates the value, not the controls and layout to accommodate the content. I'm not sure how this will work out in your case.
  • Accessibility: screen readers could have a difficult time using your UI because it's bilingual. Plus, most people using a screen reader be confronted with a language they don't understand. How to tackle that?
  • As Pectoralis mentioned, the cognitive load could increase significantly depending on how far you'll take this. A user unable to read one of the two languages will always be burdenend with the extra effort of focussing on the label that he is able to read.

Have you considered to make the first time usage bilingual? In that case users will be able to use the site at first, finding all the appropriate elements and controls without the need to translate. But also make sure that users who need to are able to go all English or Chinese?

In the end, if you don't have a good answer to the con's mentioned, your idea could seriously hinder UX.

Cheers

6

I don't want to see/read stuff i don't understand, so no, its definitely not desirable. There is a reason why every service/website/product offers separate output for language.

Its absolutely distracting, before i read "Home" i see "首页" and so on, cognitive load is huge too because you literally can't stop someone that reads from left to right to see those symbols before he finds what he is actually looking for.

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    While I agree single-language pages would be better, as a native English speaker who has no understanding of Chinese, I personally don't think this would be a major cognitive load to cope with: the symbols are too alien and thus fairly easily ignored. OTOH, a mix of two languages (one of which I have no knowledge of) sharing roughly the same alphabet (English/German, English/Swedish) probably would be too much of a cognitive load. – TripeHound Jan 31 '19 at 11:38
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Unless a use-case involves a Chinese reader and an English reader sharing a screen and reading simultaneously, from the point-of-view of the induvidual, there is little benefit of seeing the interface in a language other than the one they understand (outside of language learning applications). Even if the user understands both langages.

By 'blend in as one' I think that your root requirement is that you want to facilitate seamless interaction/communication/collaboration between community members speaking the two languages.

Or if your aim is to not have to develop two language modes to save resources, be aware that it will probably have a negative impact on user experience.

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