Searching for UX principles for designing an Arabic language website

12 May 2010 - 9:59am
6 years ago
2 replies
7842 reads

I'm sat here in Doha [Qatar] in the middle of a week of user-testing an English/Arabic travel website. One concern for our design approach is to not just "flip the text RTL" for the Arabic translation. We'd really like to actually do something meaningful for the Arabic version [yes, its early in the project and our hopes flourish].

Primarily I'm trying to find UX principles for designing an Arabic language website. From both Western and Arabic-based UX practitioners. Articles, thoughts and examples on designing Arabic language websites.

Here's what I've found so far [its not a lot]:

  • Arabic is read right to left [RTL]
  • Arabic readers will put up with reading English/Western numbers [LTR] but, as mentioned just this week by some of the Arabic users I tested, if its going to be in Arabic, the numbers should be too. Like any other language they'd like it all in their own language
  • Watch your iconography assumptions [may not translate well]
  • Picture design/choice too should be considered from a RTL approach
  • Check your text translations, especially for English text to Arabic for buttons [and other elements where pixel-space is tight]. Often the Arabic translation needs to describe a concept as there isn't an Arabic word for it, which may take a sentence in Arabic, not a single word. Seems comparable to English to German in this respect. Maybe more so for character length issues.

Addtionally, I'd really like to see some great examples of well design Arabic websites:

Here's what I've sourced...and its light hence why I'm reaching out.

Best find
Designing an Arabic user interface report [2006]
Good report specifically on designing for an Arabic website. Focuses a little bit too much at the beginning about software development issues e.g. communication etc. And requires a UPA login to download otherwise you've got to pay. Right now, its brilliant as its the only solid, decent thing I've got on the subject.

Across IXDA

I might be missing the discussion topics, but all I've found is:

In these posts there a nice quote, highlighting insight into typical user behaviour of a pattern that's got out...
"It's also interesting to note that when I ran user testing of Arabic text entry software in Cairo, I found out most people are writing text messages left-to-right using Roman letters instead of right-to-left in Arabic script. Why? Because most people had Nokia phones which shipped with the default language English, and although you could change it to Arabic most people didn't.

Because most technology has come from the West, the world has become largely familiar with Western ways to organize information. This is, of course, NOT to say that cultural sensitivity is not something we should strive for.
Cheers, Maria"
Cross-quoted in both threads.

And across other UX sites about all I've found is this article on A List Apart: Seems orientated to the developer-end of the job.

Other stuff included Lorem Ipsum arabic generator [I know, how exciting!] And a great article on Arabic modern font design from the wonderful [now defunct]

Any help would be much appreciated.

Many thanks.



12 May 2010 - 2:28pm
Courtney Clark


Generally, I think most UX principles apply. There are a couple of nuances, mostly related to visual design and access.


  • Arabic script is generally much smaller than English text. I recommend using at minimum of 16 pixels size font.
  • Good Arabic fonts include: Simplified Arabic, Arabic Transparent, BaghdadTimes New Roman



  • When I was doing usability testing in Doha, I found that the majority of participants largely accessed the web via phone, unless they were at work.


  • Aljazeera
  • Aljazeera Arabic portal
  • Qatar Living
  • Bidding Nation Qatar 2022


12 May 2010 - 11:32pm

Courtney, thanks for coming back. Cassian[CD] is checking the fonts - cheers for inclusing these too.

Additionally, how did you find recruiting for user testing here in Doha?

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