My first job out of university translating software from English to French. In theory, globalisation of the software had already been done (ie making the software being able to support more than one language) and all was needed was localisation (the actual translation from English into the local language).
Needless to say that globalisation wasn't done perfectly. During testing, it was discovered that the additional language meant that all store orders were doubled, for example.
One of the UI designers for Dropbox, writes the following advice in Design for internationalization:
- Leave room for longer translations
- Avoid putting text in narrow columns
- Don’t embed text in images
- Don’t create sentences with UI elements
- Watch out for metaphors
- Use descriptive feature names
- Provide alternates for translation
Even big companies mess up. The translation of ebay's site struggled. In the violation of number 4 above the phrase "10h left" in the auction, then left was translated as a direction - oops!