E-government web content problems—in Arabic

E-government web content problems in Arab nations? Yes, there's quite an overlap with what we see in English language government web content!

In Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), one of the United Arab Emirates, Basem A. Shahin is fully involved in training government employees to produce usable web content. He is a consultant for IforU magazine and sometimes writes articles on Arabic content and government websites. He found my book, Write me a web page, Elsie!, highly relevant and useful for creating content in Arabic. This interested me, so I asked him about it.

Rachel: Please tell us a little about the magazine IforU: the publisher, goals, and audience.

Basem: The RAK eGovernment Authority issues IforU magazine to spread eTransformation awareness among RAK citizens and residents. The magazine publishes news, features and articles about the efforts of RAK eGovernment in that regard as well as its future projects and initiatives. Most of the magazine issues have something about content and web writing. The article which contained excerpts by Rachel was received with enthusiasm by the RAK management and the magazine chief editor.

Rachel: Why did you decide to include excerpts from Write me a web page, Elsie?
Basem: I have read the book, and found out that it is one of the most interesting books in web writing and content. I think that the book is an excellent eye opener for any content writer. It shows real examples and detailed explanation on how to create catchy copy. I was delighted to read it thoroughly and I recommended it to some of my friends who work in content management and web writing.

We would love to train Arab-speaking content authors, but to adapt Contented online courses for Arabic speakers would involve much more than simple translation. For starters, think about where the eyes travel over a page where text is aligned to the right: the F-pattern is reversed. Then imagine the complex variations between plain English and plain Arabic! So an Arabic version of the Contented online writing courses is a long, long way away. In the meantime, we're delighted that the Elsie-book can help with the training of RAK government writers, if only indirectly.

Order Write Me A Web Page, Elsie! online



Oct 08, 2011 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

Yes, we are all very ABC-centred in the West, which is understandable. I believe the Web has influenced the layout of Japanese and Chinese, from optional directions (vertical or horizontal, upwards or downwards, left to right or vice versa) towards an ABC-style left-to-right horizontal script. Arabic is most unlikely to ever change direction, and it’s such a tricky script to convey in pixels. That said, I’ve noticed the page design of sites in Arabic improve greatly over time.

About the sub-headlines: Basem is the person to ask!

Oct 04, 2011 • Posted by Basem Shahin

Hi Rachel,
I am still up to my promise. In the NEAR future, there will be a training course for Arabic Content Writing. I have started working on it. Slow, yes. But diligent and insistent on achieving that goal in 2012.
I admit it: many parts of the course will emulate the rules expressed in your nice book … Elsie!

Oct 05, 2011 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

It’s too bad the platform we use, Articulate, does not yet support content in Arabic. If that were so, we could work together very well. Best of luck!

Oct 05, 2011 • Posted by Alistair McAlpine

A thought provoking blog Rachel.

Many of the organisations we write for are embracing ever widening audiences as are their websites. We float about in our Latin script bubble forgetting that Arabic has about 300 million native speakers globally and is an official language in 26 countries (third after English and French).

My guess is that heatmaps would reveal Arabic readers exhibit similar eye scan behaviour to that presented in your book, though reversed on the page. Arabic vertical navigation bars are right of page. It would be interesting to know whether any experiments have been carried out.

As an aside – the IforU article seems to feature long stretches of text, would a few sub-headlines help?


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