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An ever-lasting issue for multilingual websites: which language icon?

Posted by Edouard on October 13, 2017

Finding a simple visual cue that can be inserted on your front page to notify your users that your website is available in several languages is a tough problem to solve. Here are 4 classic ways to implement a language switcher, plus a lesser known way.

1. Just listing your languages

The most simple and effective way to let people switch language is to just list the languages you support. This is what Facebook does that and so do we. People expect this list to be in your footer, and the languages should be listed in their original, non-translated names. English for English, Français for French, Deutsch for German, etc.

Pros & Cons

On the upside, your users will eventually find a language that they know if it’s listed there.

The downside is that it takes up a lot of space in your design, so you might be temped to only use this on your landing page. Facebook trims it to the list of the most used languages and adds a “plus sign” to view all their supported languages.

2. A language dropdown menu

You can also insert a drop-down menu set by default on the current language, like English for instance. This is what Stripe does this for instance.

Pros & Cons

On the upside, it takes up less space in the footer compared to the previous solution.

The downside is that it lacks clarity for a user browsing the website in a language that he doesn’t know. As you can see on the image below I would get lost on the Chinese version of Stripe’s website 😅

This is where an icon helping foreign users identify the language switcher would come handy.

3. A language dropdown menu using country flags

Some multilingual websites who make the choice of using an icon often use a country flag which changes with your choice of language. This is how Slack does it for instance.

Pros & Cons

On the upside colorful flags attract attention. They also are universally known and people understand that they might be able to change some kind of regional setting here.

The downside is clear: country flags represent countries, not languages and some users won’t like it. Users visiting your website from the United Kingdom may not like to see the stars and stripes banner. Also, an American user might not like to see the Union Jack banner. Besides, English isn’t the only language spoken in UK. What about Welsh, Scottish, Gaelic? Basically, you may hurt people’s sensitivity.

4. A language dropdown menu using neutral icons

Designing an icon conveying the meaning of “Changing Language” is hard. Popular choices are icons of a globe, or a flag, or a globe in a flag, as Apple does.

Pictures of “exotic” characters such as 文 are popular too. This is what Google and Microsoft use in their user interfaces.

Pros & Cons

The upside is that while these icons are clearly visible, they won’t hurt anyone’s sensitivity.

The downside is that these icons aren’t unified across software vendors so it might be difficult for a user to identify quickly and precisely what this icon means unlike the hamburger button or cog icon which are now known by many people using computer interfaces.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an widespread, already existing user interface icon that conveys the idea of changing languages? Well, you know what? There kind of is.

The language Icon project

The language icon project attempts to change that. The language icon icon was designed during a competition in 2011.

The initiative is very interesting and the design clever.

Some could argue that this design, if never seen before, might not straight away be perceived as a language icon, but it surely would if it was used more by software vendors.

It is meant to be used for commercial and non-commercial projects. It was released under a CC license with following terms: Relax-Attribution. It means that if you use it, you are suggested but not required to attribute the work to its creator when using for internet or digital use.

If software vendors were to use it more, it would become the norm like our beloved hamburger button, and it would become an obvious choice for any developer when localizing their software.

And who knows, maybe an even better Language Icon or —even better— an Emoji defining “Change Language” will pop up one day?



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New in WebTranslateIt: Improvements to the character counter

Posted by Edouard on October 11, 2017

We just released a few improvements to how characters are counted on WebTranslateIt.

First of all, we now display a character counter at the bottom of each translation box.

For those of you unfamiliar with this kind of counter (it is quite widespread on translation tools), the number on the left is the amount of characters in the source text and the number on the right is the amount of characters in the target text.

If a lot of text is being typed in the translation box you will notice that the target text character count turns orange. It’s a sign that your translation could be too verbose.

We also revamped how the character counter works on segments including a character limit.

Finally, we also added one project setting to let you choose how you want WebTranslateIt to count characters: by characters or by bytes. By default we count a character as a character (using a grapheme counter).

It means that “A” is 1 character, “🤔” is 1 character and “की” is 1 character.

However, we know that some tools you rely on still count characters using bytes, and some characters are made of several bytes, so for some tools “A” would be 1 character and “🤔” and “की” would be 2 characters.

We hope you will find these improvements useful. Until then, don’t hesitate to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Update to WebTranslateIt’s search engine

Posted by Estelle on September 22, 2017

We just released an update to WebTranslateIt’s search engine.

The first thing you will notice is that the “Ignore Case” checkbox is now checked by default. It was previously off by default, mainly because case sensitivity only applied to regex searches.

It means that you can now run a basic search with case sensitivity turned on or off. This allows you to search for things more precisely.

Case sensitive results:

Case insensitive results:

We also changed how searching for Source or Target text works. It now searches for stand-alone words.

Here’s an example. On this project we have many segments containing air:

Now by default, searching for air on the source text will only list text containing the word air like MacBook Air, a fresh breath of air. Previously it would had also matched words containing air like Go to the repair shop.

If you’d like to use the old behavior and search for everything containing air then just tick the “regex search” box.

We really think that the new defaults will make searching for segments easier, while by using advanced options lets you search even more precisely. We hope you will like it. Thank you for using WebTranslateIt.

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New in WebTranslateIt: Improvements to PHP Laravel and JSON files support

Posted by Estelle on September 19, 2017

We released an update to the language file handler on WebTranslateIt. We improved the Laravel file handler and the JSON file handler. Other improvements will come along the way.

Support for short-hand arrays in PHP Laravel files

WebTranslateIt now supports short-hand arrays in PHP Laravel files.

Instead of uploading PHP Laravel files containing arrays defined like this:

<?php
return array(
  'foo' => array(
    'subject' => 'Test'
  ),
  'bar' => array(
    'subject' => 'Test 2'
  )
);

You can now upload and download language files looking like that:

<?php
return [
  'foo' => [
    'subject' => 'Test'
  ],
  'bar' => [
    'subject' => 'Test 2'
  ]
];

Custom indentation for JSON files

WebTranslateIt indents all the language files with spaces 😂 but we believe that it is a matter of taste and we shouldn’t impose our spaces indentation. It also makes huge diffs when you download back your language files to version control.

Starting today when uploading a JSON file it detects which kind of indentation you are using (2 spaces, 4 spaces, 1 tab, 2 tabs) and it saves this information to database. When generating your JSON language file we will put your original indentation back on.

More importantly, we laid the ground work for having this feature working for all files handlers. We’ll add custom indentation support for all the other file formats soon.


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Have you heard about the JavaScript XMPP Client?

Posted by Estelle on September 18, 2017

WebTranslateIt has always had a policy of offering free subscriptions to non profit organizations so that they can translate their projects. Over the years, we’ve been joined by people giving life to some very interesting open source projects, like the JavaScript XMPP Client.

We asked Klaus Herberth, lead developer of JSXC to tell us more about it.

WTI: Can you tell us exactly what the JavaScript XMPP Client is?
K.H.: The JavaScript XMPP Client (JSXC) aims to expand every web application by a real-time communication center with end-to-end encrypted two-party chat, video calls, file transfer, group chat and a lot more. Beside some already adapted packages for Nextcloud, Ilias, Wordpress, SOGo and other open source projects, you can easily integrate JSXC with just a few lines of code into your website.

WTI: Who are the people who started it?
K.H.: I started JSXC as part of my Bachelor Thesis and now it’s developed by me, some colleagues from the Distributed Systems Laboratory at the University of Konstanz, Germany and a growing community.

Meet the JSXC core team.

WTI: What was your main motivation?
K.H.: The idea was to create a simple to use, secure and privacy-aware chat application which can be integrated into every website, so that people around the world can share their ideas and opinions without fear.

WTI: Why create a free product when it could have been commercialized?
K.H.: We love open source software and think thats the only way to go if you like to have a secure product. Nobody can trust in closed source software, because you don’t know what’s going on in that black box.

WTI: And finally, can you tell us how WebTranslateIt helped you along the way?
K.H.: It helped us to engage non-technical persons to the project, who like to contribute but need an easy to use interface with a clear work flow.

Klaus and his team have started translating their project into more than 20 languages and we are proud to help them reach to worldwide users.
If you are interested in the JavaScript XMPP Client, want to use it or would like to help develop it or translate it, don’t hesitate to reach out to Klaus at klaus@jsxc.org.

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