While “Packrat” might’ve been a clever name for a U.S. audience, it made no sense in other languages. The rat icon next to it made things even more confusing. Thankfully, we changed the name to “Extended version history,” which was so much easier to translate.
To avoid translation problems, it’s safer to use descriptive terms for feature names. Descriptive terms might seem a bit boring, but they’re better for translation and for usability, too.
Provide alternates for translation
In general, when you’re writing words that’ll get translated, it’s best to write in a style that’s precise, literal, and neutral. However, there might be special branding moments when you want to be a little more playful.
For cases like this, we’ll sometimes write two versions: one version for English and an alternate version for translation.
You can do this by adding comments for translators for anything that’s tricky to translate. We’re currently writing labels for stickers used in Dropbox. We decided to use “OMG cat” as the label one of the stickers in the product interface.
Hope you found some of these tips helpful. If you’ve got other design tips for internationalization, feel free to chime in below so we can all learn from each other. By spreading the word about internationalization, I’m hoping we can all do our part to build better products for people around the world.
Many thanks to everyone who helped tell this story, including Fanny Luor, Jensen Hong, Adam Sawyer, Dawn Lee, Andrea Drugay, Anthony Kosner, Dave Weiss, Galina Mishnyakova, Kurt Varner, and all the incredible i18n gurus who’ve taught me so much over the years.