I'm currently working on the back-office of an application, used mainly on desktop.

Final users are not necessarily "tech friendly", the interface has to remain simple and clear.

I try to design an interface where user can enter the same information (eg. an item description) in up to 12 languages, and for each language he can choose to use a default value or to enter a specific value. Default value is generally chosen, specific value is less often used but is an important feature.

I'm stuck with the way of displaying x times the same field (item description in my case) without overloading the interface.

Actually, there are horizontal tabs, 1 per language, and user has to click on each one to verify if translation is set and correct. Because some clients has lot of active languages, tabs can be arranged on 2 lines... I don't find this way very usable.

My mains objectives are to display simply for each language if default or specific value is used, without overloading the interface. It is interesting to be able to view the default value if necessary.

There is no specific need to see different languages on the same screen (as an help for translation for example), because translations are generally not written by the user, he only enters them in the interface.

Do you see any better way to select a language in the current interface ?

Here is an example of the actual interface : 1

  • I'm not seeing what your actual question is here.
    – JonW
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:46
  • 4
    Also - Flags are not Languages,
    – JonW
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:46
  • I couldn't find any great layout for this functionality, so I'm mainly looking for inspiration / example. Jan 7, 2016 at 14:50
  • 1
    Flags are on the actual interface, but I clearly don't want to keep them. Jan 7, 2016 at 14:51
  • 1
    I'm afraid asking for examples / inspiration aren't really what this site is for. We're for providing actual solutions to specific problems. Can you elaborate on what specifically you have an issue with? Otherwise we'll have to close off this question. Probably useful to take the tour too, to get an idea of how the site works.
    – JonW
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:54

4 Answers 4


As far as I can tell you just want a mini version of Apple's country chooser.

I suggest having an expanding box that shows the available languages between those that have translations and those that don't:

enter image description here


If I understand correctly, you do not want to show all the options at the top of the screen?

Why not have an dropdown where people can select the language they want to enter?

On top of that, if their are different users that log in to do different tasks, why not have a "default language" field which would to that particular languare whenever the user loads the page?

  • Language dropdown is a solution, but user will need to manually change the value to know if defaul or specific value is used for a specific language. Jan 7, 2016 at 16:09
  • 1
    You could colour code the individual dropdown items to show whether something has been entered for that particular language? That way people could see quite easily which ones have at least been dealt with.
    – stradled
    Jan 7, 2016 at 18:31
  • It's a lead... I don't know if it's possible by the way. Jan 8, 2016 at 13:47
  • It depends what you are building the site in and your browser version limitations, but dropdown can be heavily customised using JavaScript
    – stradled
    Jan 10, 2016 at 9:23

I suggest to display every language for field on the same screen, without switching tab. You could use a list of input or plain text like:

  • English: "This is my description"
  • Italian: "Questa è la mia descrizione"
  • French: (empty)

...and so on.

In case of plain text, it could be followed by an icon "Edit" (or "Add" if empty) to open in a modal window; in case of input text by buttons for save, rich text edit...

I think that it would be better to have everything clear at first glance.

  • I'm not really sure to understand your idea, but in tour case, i'll see all textarea on my screen (1 per language) at first glance? That's what I want to avoid, because on a screen I can have to manage 4 or 5 fields translated (each one in 12 languages). Generally, default value is used (I just updated my post) so maybe for a translated field I should display language list vertically, each one associated to a toggle "use default / set specific" ? Jan 8, 2016 at 13:57
  • I think that is better to see together the same field than the same language, on my experience. It's esier to manage the translation this way. Did you think to implement xml/cvs dictionary?
    – panna
    Jan 10, 2016 at 18:41

Tabs are good

Having persistently available tabs supports the idea of recognition over recall. It's theoretically harder for a user to forget language n when it's sitting right there in the UI.

But not here

Tabs should be relatively few in number (I like 3-7). Any control in too great a number can become noise and users will inadvertently block it from their mind. I may have my psych terms off here, but I attribute this to the intersection of cognitive load, Hicks Law, and a user's willingness to grant you their attention.

Finding a better solution

The challenge seems to be that you want to

  • Allow a large number of language options
  • Not present all translations simultaneously
  • Encourage the user to complete all translations
  • Make language switching convenient

How about a select box that allows the user to jump to a specific language, combined with a pagination-style switch to page through languages in sequence?

Select box with previous/next controls

Side note:
Hopefully you are also internationalizing your own UI so these languages display in their localized rendering.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.