How to deal with multi directional footnote language? suppose I have a multilingual document whatever it is (word Document or an HTML file) and I have to include footnotes in that document in multi directional language as shown below.

Do I have to follow the language direction or the layout convention?

The screen shot below describe the footnote that have Arabic and English references. in the same footnote area. enter image description here

As you can see it is right aligned well based on the main document language and Direction RTL, regardless the miss aligned of the English text. as I was following Wikipedia style when it comes with multilingual page. I did follow the bullet layout convention.

In the following screenshot, I tried to align the Latin text well regardless the bullet alignment (layout alignment). As I ignored the bullets layout.

enter image description here

What I am asking for. which way you may prefer as user experience? is it ok to break the bullet alignment? or it is preferable to preserve the bullet layout whatever the direction is?

1 Answer 1


This is a very interesting question and somehow the question itself answers a doubt I had seeing some sites with right aligned footnotes (even if in Western languages).

So, before anything, I don't know if there's an accepted convention for this, but will try to answer based on UX principles and standards.

As you probably know, there are different layout patterns, including the Z-pattern, F-Pattern and Guttenberg Diagram. There are thousands of studies about this, so I won't extend on the subject. But... what happens with RTL layouts? As you may expect, the patterns are flipped horizontally. If you read this article, it also concludes that you should "Stick to Conventional Layouts" (meaning LTR orientation).

Now, let's see another study: Visual Reading Patterns on Arabic Interfaces:Insights from Eye Tracking by Remya P. George, Rasiya Anwar and Sunitha Jeyasekhar. As you may notice, the conclusion is radically different to the first article. And instead of flipped "Western" patterns, other patterns emerge, I will shamelessly copy the content just in case it goes down:

  • Intermittent examination of multimedia content

enter image description here

In a right-to-left layout, it was interesting to find z-shaped patterns in which viewers start with text then examine the multimedia content at points in time in which the audio accompanying the video or animation or video emphasizes apoint with tone.

  • Triangular Reading Pattern

enter image description here

The two consecutive cycles of the triangular pattern are shown in the above figure. In the first cycle, users exhibited behavior of visual examination of navigation, followed by content then the multimedia area of the eLearning interface. The second cycle was similarly exhibit by several users in the way they distributed their attention across the interface during the module’s multimedia presentation.

  • Right to Left Sweep Pattern

enter image description here

The figure shows visual reading patterns across the first column followed by a shift towards the second column in which the reader continued to exhibit similar patterns across lines

Additional patterns

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The Proposed solution

As you may see, there's no much logic (in Western sense) to Asian and Arab layouts. And yet, there is a logic, which helps to support this answer:

  1. You can easily note that Arab language eye-tracking positioned a huge weight on the right (as expected).
  2. Western users have common patterns where we can find coincidences in Eastern user's patterns
  3. Bullets are a visual aid to scan your content

With these elements, and assuming your target has a reasonable ratio of Eastern users, AND that you're mixing languages, AND this is for footnotes, I'd suggest to align the list to the right: you preserve RTL language conventions yet Western users will naturally read by using a Z-pattern. See a quick mock I did to illustrate this behavior

enter image description here


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