I did some A/B testing on how language translations affect the ability for people to install a browser plugin. I got around 20 languages professionally translated. I use Javascript to default to the user's native language when they land on my site. Our results consistently show that Japanese, Dutch, and Greek people are more successful when shown English rather than their native language. The other 17 countries were more successful with their native language - the expected result. Why is this the case? Do certain cultures require a different layout so they feel more at home? For example, Arabs need a right-to-left aligned site and Chinese like crowded and playful layouts. What am I missing with these Japanese, Dutch, and Greek?

Live example:

http://veetle.com/index.php/listing#1/popular/1 - click on any thumbnail

English version


Japanese version


  • 1
    Is there any way you're able to tell the language of the content they watch? That might offer a clue. Oct 28, 2010 at 0:12
  • They must successfully install this plugin before they can watch video. This is tracking first time users who have not watched anything yet.
    – JoJo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:51
  • 2
    A small note on the Dutch translation: it's perfectly fine, really!
    – onnodb
    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:41
  • 1
    Dutch people speak great English, so it might be the case that your English site's copy is more familiar and your Dutch copy is a little out of sorts. I know I hit the English button wherever I can on Dutch sites (despite being an English native speaker). Dutch is like that. ;)
    – Rahul
    Oct 28, 2010 at 8:54
  • 2
    Oh, and can you update your question title? It's a funny title, but it's not an accurate one for the question you're asking.
    – Rahul
    Oct 28, 2010 at 8:55

6 Answers 6


I am a native speaker of Japanese. Although I have a casual interest in user interface, I have no expertise in user interface.

I do not know the cause of your results of A/B testing. For what it’s worth, I will list the small oddities of the Japanese pages which I noticed. I will not imply that anything listed here is the cause of the result which you observed. You should figure out the real cause by yourself if necessary.

Quality of translation. The quality of the Japanese translation is ok but not excellent:

  • On the first page, the translation “それは無料です。インストールに必要なのはたったの1分です。” for “It’s free. Takes just 1 minute to install.” is correct but unnatural (especially the first sentence). It sounds translation-y. I would translate the first sentence to just “無料です。” instead of “それは無料です。”.
  • On the second page, the explanation of Step 1 is translated incorrectly. The Japanese text says “Check ‘save file’ and click ‘ok’ to download the Veetle TV installer,” which is different from what the English text says. It is also inconsistent with the screenshot.
  • Added: On the first page, the word “channel” is translated into “チャネル.” This form is not rare, but I think that the form “チャンネル” is more common when we refer to a collection of video or audio programs (for example, YouTube uses “チャンネル”). The use of the less common form might add slight awkwardness to the page.

Partial translation. I agree to Oskar Duveborn that only small portion of a page being translated to my language reminds me of ads.

Added: Choice of font. When I opened the page with Internet Explorer, the Japanese text did not look right, because the browser showed part of the Japanese text in the SimSun font, which is a font for simplified Chinese. However, I am using the English version of Windows, and I do not know if it happened because of this. If the same issue happens also on the Japanese version of Windows, it is very likely that it gives a negative impression of your website to Japanese speakers.

Added: Alignment of captions of buttons. As you state in a comment on the question, the Japanese instruction lacks the arrow icons on the buttons. I do not think that the absence of the icons per se has any negative impact, but as a result, the texts on the buttons are aligned to the left instead of centered for no apparent reason. This is a little awkward.

  • 2
    I like your explanation, Tsuyoshi. If a download prompt looks like an ad, people will think it's a virus. So what's the correct translation for "it's free"?
    – JoJo
    Oct 31, 2010 at 4:51
  • @JoJo: I would translate it to simply “無料です。”. However, you might wan to check why the professional translator translated it to the unnatural sentence “それは無料です。” and none of the native speakers who cross-checked the translation said anything about it. Oct 31, 2010 at 5:16

If you are able to do so, cross-reference the language of the content they watch when they do access the site. Doing this will enable you to determine if they are there to watch content in English or their native tongue. If the content is English, they may well prefer the interface to be in English as well.

Some other suggestions to check into or try:

  • You should allow the option to switch language to users of all languages, but specifically these problem languages. Try it for a while and see if your conversions go up.
  • Are there prominent competing sites in these languages that don't require an install? It might be worth it to research your competitors and see what they're doing different or better and then adapt your site.
  • What is the profile of your average user for these languages? Are they tech savvy or are they running IE6? Perhaps more explicit instructions or an instruction video are warranted.
  • Could these cultures be more prone to distrust anything they have to install? Try explaining why it needs to be installed.
  • Do these users have JavaScript enabled?
  • What is the availability and quality of content in these languages? Perhaps there simply isn't enough for them to make it worth their while.
  • Verify the translation with more native speakers.
  • Contact some web designers native to these cultures and ask for their help with improving your conversion rates.
  • Look at prominent websites in these languages. Pay special attention to how their calls to action are constructed.
  • Just ask. If they leave without installing, use a modal feedback form that appears when they're about to leave to ask them how you could improve the process for them. Or just use a link to a form instead of the modal form.

Finally, as a bit of friendly advice, I would highly recommend finding ways to allow viewing and broadcasting without requiring an installation of anything. Flash is present in over 90% of browsers and HTML5 video is becoming more and more popular and is also compatible with many mobile browsers. Between the two, you should be able to cover almost 100% of users with what they already have on their system. By requiring an installation, you are putting an obstacle in the path of your users' objectives and your own business objectives. Because it's an obstacle that few of your competitors face, you are putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.

  • The Flash video market is already saturated. Our company decided not to be Flash based. Flash suffers from high CPU usage, tearing, and an expensive means to transfer video.
    – JoJo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 23:25
  • 1
    @JoJo what do you mean by "The Flash video market is already saturated"?
    – Rahul
    Oct 31, 2010 at 18:06

If a site in English suddenly displays a portion of it in my native tongue (Swedish), I instinctively disregard that part as ads of some sort...

...generally the annoying fake dating ads seems to like doing this. Not that it explains any of your rather interesting research but anyway ^^


Fascinating...This probably isn't the answer, but is there any chance your professional language translations for these three languages just weren't as good as for the other languages? If you suspect that might be possible, perhaps you could validate the translations with an alternate translator (or even see what Google Translate comes up with--as poor as the automated translations usually are).

If it's not the translations, my only other thought would be that you simply didn't collect enough data or there was a flaw in your test. How many data points do you have for each country? How did you judge success and failure? Could it be that some people just changed their mind about joining the site or got distracted by something else and never completed the task?

  • The sample size was in the millions. Success is logged when a user sees this install prompt and ultimately starts playing a video. The translations are cross verified by two native speakers from the translation company.
    – JoJo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:37
  • 1
    @JoJo: The Japanese text contains an unnatural phrase which is typical in translation from English to Japanese (the first bullet in my answer). Honestly speaking, I cannot believe that it has been cross-verified by two native Japanese speakers. However, I do not know if it has anything to do with your result of A/B testing. Oct 31, 2010 at 0:04
  • It's possible the "professional translation service" just did a shoddy job ;)
    – Rahul
    Oct 31, 2010 at 18:23
  • @JoJo 2 isn't enough. definitely.
    – Pacerier
    May 16, 2011 at 0:01

Although I am a Dutch person that prefers computers to speak English to me, I know I am in a minority.

Dutch people generally tend to prefer and do much better with applications and sites in their native tongue. So I would definitely agree with @DanM that most probably the translation isn't as good as you may think it is (and no, I am not offering to do a better job :-) other things to do) or you don't really have enough data to make these calls.

  • I would appreciate it if you could just glance at the Dutch translation and tell me if there is anything strange. Go here: veetle.com/index.php/listing#1/popular/1 and click on any thumbnail. Then choose Dutch from the dropdown menu (if you're operating system is not already Dutch).
    – JoJo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:54
  • Hmm, I just posted the exact opposite of this as a comment on the original question. I'm curious for references about this, actually. Got any?
    – Rahul
    Oct 28, 2010 at 8:56
  • @Rahul, sorry no references. Just experience as a Dutch software developer and support supplier for Dutch users of both English and Dutch versions of various applications, plain Windows included. While many Dutch people speak "great" English, that is mainly in comparison to other nations. In my experience even many software developers and other technically inclined Dutch people can indeed get around using their English but are way much more comfortable using Dutch. Oct 28, 2010 at 12:24
  • @Rahul, @Jojo: and the Dutch translation is perfectly fine (as @onnodb already mentioned in question's comments) Oct 28, 2010 at 12:28

On my computer, your site is in English and only the "download plugin dialog" is localized. This breaks consistency (but does not explain differences accross language/culture)

  • This is expected as we only had enough money to translate that area on the site. Could translating only a small area of the site cause confusion?
    – JoJo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 16:49
  • 4
    To me, the plugin download area does not seems to belong to the site : another language,and different graphics... Oct 28, 2010 at 18:56

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