Google Translate

Adding a new feature to Google Translate to Make it more useful as a tool for understanding and learning a new language


About the Project

Google is working to enhance its Google Translate app to allow users to improve their language skills in addition to communicating in real-time. In 2013, Google announced a new feature called Phrasebook. Phrasebook lets you save phrases on the service for future reference.

The aim of this project was to Make Google Translate's Phrasebook more useful and more efficient for learning a new language.


UX Research, UX/UI Design | 2 Weeks




This is a speculative project and is not affiliated with Google Translate.


By revisiting the useful phrases in your Phrasebook from time to time, you can turn any brief translation into lasting knowledge.


As per Google, Phrasebook can be used for gaining new language knowledge. Therefore, I was curious to find out if users really use Google Translate as a learning tool. If yes, how do they do that?

Google Translate Help Center

Users' comments about Google Translate Phrasebook shortcomings - Excerpt from Google Translate Help Center


The existing Google Translate Phrasebook does not allow users to directly save words that they face in other apps. This means users need to open the Google Translate app each time they want to save a new word.

To categorize words in Phrasebook, users have to export their Phrasebook to Google Sheets on their desktop computer.

This process is complex and time-consuming. Therefore, users don't find Phrasebook efficient. 

Taking a step back

I started my research by learning more about Google Translate and its competitors. During the initial discovery phase, I conducted 1-1 interview sessions with 9 participants with diverse backgrounds to understand their approach when using translation tools and Google Translate in particular.

Also, I wanted to identify what motivates them to learn words, what tools do they use, and how do they memorize these words in general?

I was able to gather some interesting insights from my research:

I realized that most users prefer Google Translate when looking for a word translation as it is efficient, effective, and accessible from different devices.

Users not only use the Google Translate app for translation, but also as a dictionary for finding words' definitions.

Have the users ever heard about Phrasebook?

Macbook Pro (11).png

Using data collected throughout the project, I put together a user Persona to represent some of our key users’ needs, goals, and frustrations.

Persona V2.png

So, who uses Google Translate as a learning tool?

To make sure if students could be the target audience I decided to conduct more interviews with students who were studying in their second language. 

I learned that they do save unfamiliar words while studying from books or articles so that they can learn them later.

They all mentioned that they used to create flashcards to learn these words.

However, at some point, the participants had stopped making flashcards because the process was time-consuming and distracted them from studying.

So far, I had learned that Google Translate was the first choice for translation and even checking word definition among users. During the discovery phase, I realized that users use Google Translate mostly for work-related communication or traveling. However, they were not aware of the Save and Phrasebook features. 

4 out of 9 my interviewees said that they use Phrasebook for learning words. All of these participants were students who were studying in their second language.

Macbook Pro (12).png

Making flashcards with Phrasebook; How does it work?

Users said that they used to create flashcards using their Phrasebook to review them on their phones. I performed 1-1 usability testing with my interviewees to observe their behavior and learn more about their process: 


On their phone, they opened the Translate app


They translated a word or phrase


Next to the translation, they tapped Star translation to save it 


Then, used desktop computer to sign in to their Google Translate account


New, they clicked Export to Google Sheets


Afterward, they organized the words and imported the file to flashcards making apps like Quizlet

As this process was long and complex, no wonder the interviewees had stopped making flashcards. The Flashcards feature needed to be designed within the Google Translate app.

I was initially focusing on iOS. However, after performing my research, I learned that the majority of the users I talked to were Android users. So, I decided to focus on Android at this stage.

Google Translate has the "Tap to Translate" feature only for Android, which is popular among users. Tap to Translate uses a widget that overlays other apps to allow users to quickly translate text without having to leave the app. Based on my research results, I designed an accelerator feature for adding words to Phrasebook within this widget. 

Android Userflows for adding a new word to Phrasebook with the newly added feature

As you can see below, for iOS it takes more steps to add a new word to the phrasebook. This is also something that can be improved in the feature.

iOS existing Userflows for adding a new word to Phrasebook

Save PNG.gif

Fast and Accessible

Users originally had to open the app each time for saving a word. I designed a process by which users can save and categorize terms in their Phrasebook directly accessible from other apps. 


Phrasebook GIF.gif

Customizable Phrasebook

Phrasebook originally did not have a word categorization functionality. With the newly added categorization feature, users can manage words and add them to a specific category. Also, users can sort words in different orders.

A Place to Learn New Words

I designed the Flashcards feature within Phrasebook. Gamification patterns and timely notifications were also added in this feature to make the Phrasebook more useful and enjoyable for learning new words.

Flashcards GIF.gif

The Flashcards feature allows users to display their saved phrases in the form of cards, which they can flip around to see the translation. 


I started this project with the intent of conducting it as a "sprint". This was a fun exploration into how existing design patterns influence new features. My biggest takeaway from this project is that I learned how to prioritize. Creating a strategic plan to launch a Minimum Viable Product(MVP) is critical. For this project, I tried to stick to the predicted timeline. Having a strategic plan and updating it throughout the project helps deliver a quality product on time. 

I also learned that is important to seek out feedback early and continually. The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Running some early usability testing with the low-fi wireframes helped me to understand users' needs better. Keeping the stakeholders/users in the loop and testing solutions in whatever form (paper, low-fi, or hi-fi) as early as possible saves an ample amount of time and re-work.

The next step would be to focus on designing for iOS. It would be a longer process compared to Android since the Tap to Translate feature is just for Android. Therefore, adding Google Translate shortcuts to iOS can improve the overall user experience.