Req: Reference on readability of centeredvsleft-justified text

16 Aug 2007 - 6:37am
361 reads
Caroline Jarrett

From: "Janna Cameron" <janna at>

: For a slightly different take on the general question of where to
put form
: field labels - there's text expansion-related reasons to put labels
: fields. p 72

Thanks for this reference. I'm a big fan of Richard Ishida and this
excellent document reminded me of why.

In theory, I agree with his point about allowing for expansion of
labels. But in practice, I'm not so sure.

I recently did a survey of a few of some of 'the usual suspects'
(eBay, Amazon, Google, Yahoo etc) and how they do their forms in
different languages, because I wanted to look at current practice to
update my advice. (Aside: if you know of any sites that are doing a
good job with localisation, please let me know).

And I found that in practice, the problems of translating the form
labels are as nothing to the problems of localising the questions.
Maybe I just happened to look at forms that mostly contained questions
asking for personal details (name, address, etc). As Richard Ishida
points out (p74 in the document), addresses are particularly cultural
(and names are even more sensitive).

A couiple of examples: forms in English on Chinese sites often
contain the injuction "Enter in English". A brief quiz: do you know
why? (answer after my sig). Another example: many British people still
expect organisations to address them using a title (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms
etc), followed by initial and surname. My impression is that USA
people tend to prefer first name, optional middle initial, last name.

Anyway, rightly or wrongly I took the view that if you're going to do
a decent job of figuring out the right questions, then you may as well
tackle the correct location of the labels at the same time. And I've
definitely got lots of reservations about labels above the boxes.

OK: now for the confession. My own professional work is exclusively in
English, and mostly for rather homogeneous audiences. I'd dearly love
to hear your own stories of international / intercultural work - as a
reality check, and to help me give better advice. So: any stories,
hints, or hunches? Or even: actual research or data?


Caroline Jarrett
caroline.jarrett at
01525 370379

Effortmark Ltd
Usability - Forms - Content

Answer to quiz: Chinese people often adopt a specific English version
of their names, e.g. Yu Jai-Ling, married to John Smith, might use the
name Jacqueline Smith in English. It's helpful to give a reminder
about which version of the name to use.

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