In the constantly expanding online global marketplace, a business’s online presence is extremely important to a successful global strategy, especially when moving into international markets. Website localization is the bridge from your business to how global consumers view your business. It’s essential to the success of your brand to take into consideration cultural differences between the two to ensure how you view your business is how the target audience in China, Brazil or Senegal views your business.
Website localization is more than just translating text on your website, however. Website localization is the process of adapting an existing website to the target market. This includes everything from text and language, to imagery and color schemes. It should aim to seem natural to the viewer, despite any cultural differences between the creator and audience. The modification process must reflect the specific language and cultural preferences through all website content, images, and design, while still maintaining the integrity and message of the original website.
3 levels of Website Localization Adaptation
Translation is a major component of this as any text used must be adapted to that of the language familiar to your target audience. All translations must be clear and understandable to the target audience and the audience (Mexican Spanish versus Castilian Spanish, or North African French versus Canadian French) must be clearly defined before beginning the process.
Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. Translation would fall under the same category as localization however; it is only one of several elements of the localization process. In addition to translation, the localization process also involves all activities that ensure the proper adaption to the target audience’s culture. This may include adapting all graphics, modifying content to suit the needs of the target market, converting all currencies and units of measure, and using proper formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers. The aim of localization is to ensure the product has the look and feel of having been created for the target market while seeking to avoid or minimize local sensitivities. Let’s take a look at how existing companies properly localized their respective websites:
In this example, Hotels.com displays the country and language options clearly in the header on every page on the site and the menu allows the country and language to be selected independently.
ASOS translates many of its products and categories for local markets, but also chooses to leave some English phrases in place such as the term “blazers” on its French website.
There are also subtle differences in language between the US and UK versions. Notice how the section named ‘jumpers’ in the UK is renamed ‘sweaters’ for US customers.
Apple is renowned for its excellent customer support and the website is no exception. Notice how English dates are displayed in a format that makes it easy to understand for both UK and US customers (DD, MM, YYYY)
Japanese dates are delivered in the format that Japanese customers are familiar with (YYYY/MM/DD).
Many of us have experienced the frustration of using non-internationalized products like having the dates and times formatted oddly or when filling out forms and not finding the currency desired, or fields or text boxes being too large or too small for their contents. Internationalization is the process of making sure all software used is fully compatible with the technology of the country for which the website is being localized for.
This step of the process is generally more technical than the others but can include enabling code to support local, regional, language support for any culturally related preferences. Internationalization provides the platform for localization, as it typically involves incorporating predefined localization data and features derived from existing libraries or user preferences such as date and time formats, local calendars, or number formats and numeral systems.
Bridging the Gap
Some things to keep in mind when considering website localization is ensuring the balance between the demands of the user and the goals of the client are met. Once the processes of website localization are complete, the localized website must allow the readers to read and understand the content in a way that is natural to them. This includes making sure the language chosen is appropriate for the audience’s culture. Look at your website and ask yourself these questions; do the colors and layout reflect the user’s preferences in the country I am marketing to? Does my target audience expect the text to be aligned left to right or right to left? Is the website optimized for usability by my target audience? Is the content, including idiomatic expressions, reflecting the culture of the user?
The goals of the client should be to provide a website that is optimized to the target audience and their culture while still keeping the essence of their branding, content and business. For businesses and products to succeed in the global marketplace, all three facets of website localization must be executed successfully.
At Bromberg, we understand the importance of website localization for businesses and organizations considering expanding into the global marketplace. By investing in localization services, you can be sure that your business or organization’s website is not only accessible worldwide, but appealing to your target audience’s culture. To learn more about the importance of cultural awareness, read how cultural awareness can transform your business in this previous blog here.