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Special considerations for testing applications using Right to Left languages (RTL)

When testing user interface (UI) components of an application that uses a right to left language (RTL), there are special considerations. Software test expert Karen Johnson explains what to look for in dropdown fields, scrollbars, data entry fields, checkboxes, bulleted and numbered lists and buttons.

What types of issues or user interface checkpoints do you use when testing a Web application that is presented in Right to Left Languages (RTL)?
There are two Right to Left Languages (RTL) that I've worked with: Arabic and Hebrew. There are several user interface (UI) checkpoints to consider with RTL languages.

Dropdown fields
The dropdown indicators should appear to the left of the field as opposed to the right. Also if the list of values that appear is long enough to scroll the list, then the scrollbars should appear on the left of the list of values.

Scrollbars
Scrollbars should appear to the left. This is true for the overall page as well as content within a page, drop down lists, long text boxes, etc.

Data entry fields
In LTR languages as you type, characters appear from the left and continue to appear to the right as you type. In RTL, as you type the characters should appear in the opposite direction. Visually this means the characters appear from the right and continue to move to the left as you type in a field.

Checkbox fields
In RTL languages, the field label should appear first followed by the checkbox. Radio buttons should appear to the right of the field label as well.

Bulleted & numbered lists
For me this is one of the more disorienting checkpoints, like scrollbars, my eyes are used to seeing the opposite. With lists you see values followed by the number or the bullet mark. Also the alignment is right-justified vs. left-justified.

Buttons
Buttons should shift to the left – for example if you have an entry field for a search term and a button beneath the entry box, the button should be left-justified beneath the field, not right-justified.

This was last published in October 2010

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