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Key considerations when testing right-to-left language sites

Craig Lawrenson
Craig Lawrenson
UK Head of Quality Assurance
5 min read
16 February 2016

With a rise in enterprise organisations implementing localisation strategies across their digital touchpoints, multi-language sites are becoming increasingly important to improving customer experience and achieving global success.

There are over 600 million right-to-left (RTL) language speakers worldwide, so it’s unsurprising that support for RTL websites is ever increasing.

Testing RTL language sites

There are specific challenges when designing and testing a RTL language site, as a right-to-left website is not just a ‘flipped’ version of a left-to-right (LTR) version.

When testing RTL sites, you need to always ‘think from the right’ – I find that it helps to think of it as a book that opens from the right, as opposed to the left.

It is best practice to change the machine locale to that of the language site being tested, as there are certain elements, such as a calendar widget form control, that require the locale to be set before serving the correct format.

There are a few common elements where problems are often encountered. These should form part of a key checklist of things to consider when it comes to testing RTL websites.

Text alignment/direction

This is not just a case of aligning text to the right; the direction of the text should read right-to-left as well.  One obvious indicator that this hasn’t been implemented correctly, is if the punctuation appears at the beginning of the text, rather than at the end.

نص يستخدم (محاذاة النص) إلى اليمين. 
paragraph using (text-align) right.
نص يستخدم (الإتجاه) من اليمين إلى اليسار.

paragraph using (direction) RT 

Number alignment

Even in languages which are written from right-to-left, numbers are still read from left-to-right.  Pay particular attention to things like date and time formats, and make sure these are correct.


Consider the order of items within the user interface.  For example, the header, navigation menus or promos.

For instance, if the LTR header is:

Logo | About Us | Case Studies | Contact Us

RTL would look like this:

Contact Us | Case Studies | About Us | Logo

and not like this:

Logo | About Us | Case Studies | Contact Us

Similarly, for promos, if LTR order is:

Promo1 | Promo2 | Promo3

RTL would look like this:

Promo3 | Promo2 | Promo1

Bear this in mind when testing carousels as well.  Any ‘next’ or ‘previous’ buttons would change position, and the transition of the items within the carousel would also change.

Dropdown fields

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



Scrollbars should appear to the left.  This is true for the page as well as content within a page, for example, dropdown lists, multi-line text boxes, etc.


Form fields

In LTR languages, when you type into a field, the characters appear from the left.  In RTL, the characters should appear from the right and continue to move to the left.


Pay attention to validation error message text; make sure the alignment and text direction is also correct.

Form controls, for example, a calendar widget, should also be checked to ensure the correct format.

Bulleted & numbered lists

The bullet point or number should display before the value in the bulleted/numbered list.



Buttons should move position to the left.  For example, if you have search field and a button to the right of the field, for RTL the button will shift to the left of the field.


Multi-lingual sites: things to consider

Where possible, test with content written in the native language, rather than English text.  Using content written in the native language will uncover issues that may not be highlighted when using English text.


Sometimes, certain fonts are too small and may need to be increased in size for legibility.   Conversely, some fonts are too big and may need to be reduced.

There can also be problems with special characters, for example, umlauts, cedillas and other symbols, not rendering correctly.


These should be fluid, so that they can accommodate longer label text.

Text containers

There are sometimes problems if containers are of a fixed width, and have been built with just the English language in mind.  Certain words in certain languages are a lot longer than the English equivalent, and could potentially break the design.

DEPT® specialises in the design, build and implementation of multi-site, multi-language websites for global enterprises. 

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