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By Michail Vasiltschenko

Years ago, we at SAP Language Services noticed a problem with UI translations that just wasn´t going away…

The problem was actually quite simple: developers working mainly in English would often forget to take translation into account and not leave enough text space when developing a UI. This means that when it came time to translate the UI into some of SAP´s 40 supported languages, some restricted text fields would be too short to allow for a good translation and the text on the UIs would end up looking strange and hard to read.

In terms of a solution, this too was simple enough. We needed developers to leave more text space. Yet after years of asking (read: begging) developers to please reserve more space for translations (to no avail), something suddenly clicked for our team. The problem wasn´t with the developers, it was us! We weren´t communicating our requirements clearly enough, and they in turn weren´t understanding what they could do to avoid these problems.

Earlier this year, we decided to focus on the communication aspect of the design thinking approach and to ask ourselves: what is essential for the end user? From February to March, we conducted a series of interviews and brainstorming sessions with developers from a user-centric perspective, discussing what they need from us and vice versa. What we found out was right on point: it wasn´t enough to just ask developers to leave more space; they needed concrete guidelines from us regarding how much space translations require on the UI. From there, we were able to develop a prototype in April and continue our discussions and feedback sessions with developers. In the end, this process allowed us design a perfect solution: the UI text space calculator.

The app is a simple, easy-to-use, attractive tool that can be used in all developing environments. It provides developers with very accurate guidelines on how much space they should give each text on the UI, so that when the original text is translated, the translation can be displayed fully on the UI. We need to ensure our software offers the same great user experience around the world, regardless of what language the customer is logged on in - and this is where the calculator comes in. We couldn´t have created this great app without a clear, on-going discussion on what we needed as a department, and what the developers in turn needed from us.

For me, this has been a great lesson on what an important role clear communication plays in the design thinking process. Want to try it out? You can use the calculator by clicking on "+" in the right upper corner of Bridge (, searching for "calculator" (or "Matrix", as we originally named it), and clicking on "Add". We'd love to get you feedback on what you think of the app - do you use it? Is it helpful? What would you like to see changed or added to it? Please get in touch with us to let us know.