What should be taken into account when developing a website for an Arabic audience?
October 20, 2008 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Arabic web design and website usability: what should be taken into account?

Let us assume that a (corporate) website is to be released for an Arabic audience. Which difficulties may occur concerning, for example, accessibility, design, usability or the cultural meaning of certain colors or symbols?
posted by tcp to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depending on the actual content, you'll have to be careful about how you use the color green, for example.
posted by HopperFan at 9:10 AM on October 20, 2008


Big ones I deal with are the low bandwidth a lot of Arabic countries have. You have to consider slow loading times. The right-to-left writing style, and making sure your website is set up for unicode or UTF-8 are others.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 9:12 AM on October 20, 2008


Also, I noticed that not all browsers were set to the level of security necessary for certain things (128 bit browser encryption) - once again, depends on your content/audience/their access to make updates as needed.
posted by HopperFan at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2008


There are multiple issues. A few off the top of my head are:

* images (what kind and how much -- some do not appreciate certain portrayals e.g., the female form)
* language (if you have videos which Arabic variant? A lot of media is from Egypt so Egyptian Arabic may be the way to go)
* date and time -- are expressed differently throughout the world and will you be using the Islamic calendar?
* color swatches can be used from Cabarga's Global Color Combinations so you can get a better eye for the palette

I am rushed but I assume that you have professional translators and interpreters to go over your site and all its related collateral.
posted by jadepearl at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2008


Thank you very much for those hints so far. I will do some more research and post a follow-up with some of my insights soon.

I have examined some Arabic websites and have found some commonalities:

* Due to the right-to-left writing style, the sites are usually mirrored horizontally completely (including navigation etc).

* The color green is indeed used very rarely if at all

* The design appears quite "old-fashioned" from my point of view, even if the site was developed by well-known design agencies

* The (often) small size of the font is remarkable, given that the symbols contain so many details
posted by tcp at 2:51 PM on October 20, 2008


I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but when I build websites that use Korean, a common problem is that people do not have the appropriate fonts to see the text installed if they are non-Korean users. Some guidance for people in that situation is always helpful.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:27 AM on October 21, 2008


Depending on the actual content, you'll have to be careful about how you use the color green, for example.

I've lived in the Middle East for eight years and I have never heard that.
posted by atrazine at 3:50 AM on October 21, 2008


Too busy to write a follow-up, but here are some links that proved to be helpful:

[1] Designing an Arabic User Experience
http://www.aiga.org/resources/content/1/9/5/8/documents/designing_an_arabic_user_experience.pdf

[2] Understanding Usability Issues of Bidirectional Multilingual Websites
http://www.tekom.de/artikel/artikel_1647.html
(available for free, but registration is required)

[3] Usability for non-English websites?
http://dot1ne.com/journal/ia-usability-for-arabic-websites-same-theme-but-different-settings

[4] The Arabic user interface: Arabic type in new Media
http://www.arabictypography.com/tarek.htm

[5] Usability Principles Do Translate into Arabic
http://www.nngroup.com/events/interviews/3.html
posted by tcp at 8:18 AM on October 24, 2008


Atrazine, I lived in North Africa, and I never heard that specifically either - but it seems obvious that given the connection between Islam and the color green, one would want to be careful about how the color is used, if at all.
posted by HopperFan at 10:43 AM on October 25, 2008


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