Welcome to rtl.wtf, the site that will flip your brain and let you experience and experiment with right-to-left directionality online.
Yeah, so, by now you’ve realized that the alignment of this page is a wee bit off. If you’ve cheated and went to ltr.wtf (tsk tsk) then you may see things a bit more normal, or rather, a bit more like you are used to seeing them: from left to right.
What you see in rtl.wtf in its intended Right-to-Left alignment, where your page’s point of origin is on the top right corner. If your main language is written from Left-to-Right (which is most of the languages that dominate the web) then this looks absolutely abominable to you.
Welcome to what Right-to-Left users feel browsing the web.
When we read and write, our brain has a certain mental model it follows. For left-to-right languages, that means expecting everything — the sentence, the logo, the “beginning” of things — to be on the left. For Right-to-Left speakers and writers, that is the opposite. This is a source of frustration for a-many RTL users, but even more so for website designers who are trying to create websites that cater to RTL users.
It’s my hope that this site can help you understand the challenges of supporting Right to Left online, and finding ways to overcome them.
Why should I care?
Good question. I guess I should take solace in the fact that you are here, and you’ve read this page up to this point, so you must have some interest in making your software internationalized and accessible to everyone.
Truth is, though, Right-to-Left support is incredibly important, and it becomes more and more necessary as the internet starts penetrating more and more markets.
Why your software should support Right-to-Left
RTL users are growing online. Here are a couple of numbers to convince you that we are getting pretty important to support:
- Their user base is growing.
- Arabic is Right-to-Left. There are about 19 Arabic-speaking countries in the world with combined population close to 350 million speakers.
- Farsi (spoken primarily but not exclusively in Iran) has about 110 million speakers.
- Urdu (spoken in Pakistan and parts of India) has about 65 million native speakers and 94 million second-language speakers.
- Pashto (spoken primarily in Afghanistan) has almost 20 million speakers.
- Hebrew (spoken primarily in Israel) is spoken by about 9 million people.
- To those keeping track, this is over half a billion people, and we’re not even done with the RTL language list.
- Unicode supports it and includes a “Bidirectional Algorithm” out of the box, so, I mean, really. There’s no reason your software shouldn’t.
- There are 16 Wikipedias that are in Right-to-Left languages with growing user base, showing that these languages really are growing.
About this site
This site is built to demonstrate and explain directionality issues online. It’s still being built and worked-on, so please be patient while I add to it.
It was important for me to demonstrate RTL issues, and for that purpose, I built a little “tool” to flip things for you, in the shape of the ‘RTL’ and ‘LTR’ buttons on the top: If you want to read the content in RTL (recommended, for best experience) then you can either go to rtl.wtf or click the “RTL” button up top. If you chicken-out and want your good ol’ favorite LTR layout, go to ltr.wtf or click the “LTR” button on the top.
License and sharing
If you do use anything on this site, I’d be happy if you let me know!
If you want to use (or, better yet, help improve) the ‘rtlwtf’ WordPress template, please go to its page in github.
I am planning to offer this template, at some point, as a fully standalone usabl template — but it is not QUITE there yet, especially since there are several issues that are, for the moment, specific to rtl.wtf/ltr.wtf domains. Contributions are absolutely welcome, but if you want to use it on your own site, submit an issue on github so I can help sort the independent stuff out.
Technical note and bugs
This site was made with WordPress, to make it easy for me to manage its content and generally operate it better. However, WordPress, in general, doesn’t seem to like it when you have the same site in two different domains. I forced its hand a little bit with some clever (or convoluted, depending on your perspective) tricks. This means that things may be broken. If you see anything broken, please contact me.
“Angry tiger” image by Guyon Morée, Wikimedia Commons