Designing for multiple languages Part 1

Much like the sporadic series I write about developing for low bandwidth, with our recent visual redesign of Maneno, I thought it was a good a time as any to delve in to the trials and tribulations of developing for multiple languages.
OldOn the left, you can see a screenshot of the old site. Oh, beloved old site, you were… functional. Honestly, the “design” really wasn’t that much of one. It worked and served its function, but it was quite basic and needed to be updated once we got a proper logo (which we have now) as well as a better understanding to how the site was going to function.
But, beyond aesthetics, the real issue was in how the interface worked with languages other than English. French for instance, says things in a much longer manner than English. I’ve always thought of French as an eloquent language with an impossible alphabet that you don’t pronounce half of when speaking. But still, the flow of letters would spill over quite a bit with the French version of the site. Most of this could be dealt with somewhat though. The real issue came with the African languages. Trying to truncate items could destroy all meaning and because we are trying to really promote these languages digitally, we really didn’t want to start “Anglifying” them with using abbreviations and ridiculous acronyms.
newSo enters the new design. Graphically, I feel that it is a lot more pleasing and with the introduction of the new logo, the pages appear much, much more harmonious with one another. But most important is the fact that this design deals with multiple languages a great deal better. Space has been provided for the flow and length of various languages. For instance the “join” section which looked really ugly in Fula with how we had the site originally designed allows for it to be a great number of characters now, which are centered, so it will flow in or out depending on the length. Also, the log in section works a great deal better as well with the logged in menu items having enough space for their various sizes.
There is still room to grow with all of this, but it’s definitely a massive step in the right direction. Given a couple more languages, this will probably get locked down even more.