Meta Refresh 2016

The web in your pocket

Vivekananda Pani


Designing for 200M Indians on the Internet

Submitted Aug 29, 2016

  1. 300M Indians are online, and this is growing by 40% YoY.
  2. Just about 100M Indians can read English.

The talk aims to take you on the Indic Internet story, and the challenges ahead.

Deeply rooted into typography and rendering, we would attempt to examine the design decisions behind initial physical Indic keyboard layouts and design implications because of their eventual shift to mobile. The talk would go knee deep into local languages, their idiosyncracies and the “degrees of freedom” to them that need to be accounted for, when designing language input tools.

A little about the entry of Unicode and its unintended effects on the typography design at that time. Simplicity, which might be an add-on elsewhere, becomes a very fundamental principle when designing for users who do not understand our edge-swipe and pull-to-refresh. Towards the tail end, we can discuss seemingly non-design aspects like search which mar the UX.

The talk then highlights some of the things we’ve learnt about our “design narcissisms” and pitfalls, while working closely with some of the largest consumer facing digital brands in India.


  • When input tools went digital: From Inscript’s keyboard layout to the dozens today.
  • Challenges when designing for languages: degrees of freedom, variability in character-space etc.
  • Multilingual font rendering and unicode.
  • The indisyncracies that languages have: When text goes from English to Malayalam, the result is usually 150% of the original, Tamil tends to have a high character height, Hindi is the opposite.
  • When designing a 20 language keyboard: takeaways.

Speaker bio

Vivek is the co-founder and CTO of Reverie Language Technologies. He is also one of the core designers of our 20 language keyboard: Swalekh. The layout that he and the team designed is now the unofficial standard that most multilingual keyboard follow.

Before this, he led the Language Computing Team at Center for Development of Advanced Computing(CDAC), where he had pioneered several indic tools including the first free text transliteration engine. Reverie’s language stack powers large consumer facing products like SnapDeal, HDFC, Practo, Hungama and Ola amongst others.


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