Localization Hang-Ups


When thinking about a localization project (such as adapting a company website for a product launch in another country, for example), it’s easy to arrange for translation of the text and consider the project complete. However, localization includes much more than just translation. Websites and other marketing materials contain a number of elements, including pictures, layout, and color scheme, and often there is more that needs to be localized than meets the eye. Multilizer, a translation software company, suggests five areas to assess when planning a localization project.


Links: When localizing a page, make sure that all the links on the page redirect to additional pages in the same language. One of the biggest frustrations to an internet user is when the page reads, “For more information, click here,” and then the link is broken or misdirected. Make sure that links are replaced with the country and language-specific versions on all translations of a site.


Currency: It’s tempting to leave currency amounts in US dollars and expect people to know the conversion. However, marketing is most effective when the user has to do the least possible amount of work. Having to convert a price to another currency system just might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and turns the customer elsewhere. Make sure to put all dollar amounts in the most common currency for the target region.


Style: Perhaps the most difficult element to localize is the style in which the information is presented. For some cultures, a direct approach is best. For others, a more indirect or “soft” approach will be more effective. Make sure ideas are conveyed in a way that the target audience will find appealing. Professional translators who are native speakers of the target language and familiar with the culture of the area are best suited for the task of adapting the style of a text.


Images: Although images generally don’t contain any text, the message they convey can be more powerful than a thousand words on a page. Viewers will interpret the picture based on their own cultural point of view. Many large companies and advertising campaigns use a completely different set of photos for advertising in each country where their products are sold. Make sure the photos don’t contain anything that would be culturally offensive or transmit a negative feeling to the viewer.


Colors: Colors are probably the least considered aspect of localization. In most cases, colors are universal and may not need to be localized. However, it’s worth researching to make sure a certain color scheme isn’t associated with something negative in the target area before using it throughout the website.


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