What you should know

  • Localising a website means adapting it to the customs, rituals and situation of a country or target market so that it works well within the local cultural context.
  • Localisations include text content, but also design elements such as text length, fonts and font sizes and the use of images and colours.
  • The objective of a localisation is to create an authentic user experience: users should feel understood and at home when they visit your website.

Thinking locally for global success

It sounds like a paradox, but it makes sense: if a company wants to be globally successful and expand into foreign-language markets, it must think locally when it comes to its presence.

For websites in particular, it is of crucial importance that users feel at home, that is, are provided with useful and relevant information in a manner that is familiar to them.

Language – where the truth is found

Language plays no small part in establishing familiarity and thus credibility. But even if countries and regions share a language, there are still differences – some significant and some subtle: the English spoken in the United Kingdom is different from the English spoken in the United States or Australia, for instance. Germans use different turns of phrase than Austrians or the Swiss. And the Spanish use terms differently than the Spanish speakers living in the countries of Central and South America. So localisation means translating content in such a way that people in a specific region feel like the target audience.

In addition, adapting a text to the local circumstances also includes observing formal and legal requirements – especially in the business world. This can impact:

  • Date and time formatting
  • Measurements and weights
  • Telephone numbers and contact addresses

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Design – when white is not white

But language is not the only factor in familiarity. Other cultural content is perceived and understood in entirely different ways from region to region. This can include:

  • Shapes and colours
  • Pictures and symbols
  • Values and convictions
  • Rituals and etiquette
  • Myths and humour

This can be clearly demonstrated using the example of colour: white, in Western cultures for instance, is associated with purity, perfection and innocence, but also with isolation. By contrast, white is the colour of sorrow and mourning in some Asian countries.

Colours can therefore have a significant emotional and psychological impact on people. Colours can convey messages – they, too, ‘speak a language.’

This is all to show that localisation goes far beyond merely translating text and – in addition to the content of the text – must also take the content design into consideration.


SEO – how localisation increases organic traffic

A case study from SearchPilot shows the impact that localisation can have. An online fashion shop increased its organic traffic by 24% by adapting its texts for the US market. British English terms had originally been used, which were apparently not properly understood by the majority of American users. 


Processes and workflows – using agility to achieve more effective results

Let’s assume that you want to publish news on an international website: how do you make sure that you can publish in all languages as close to simultaneously as possible? 

This can only be done with a well-thought-out workflow.

More and more, agile processes are establishing themselves in translation workflows, just like in website development. And for good reason: a website is not a ‘finished product’, but rather an ongoing process that is never truly done. As a result, the content gets passed back and forth between developers, designers, editors and translators on an ongoing basis. 

The advantages of agile translation are self-evident: all the parties involved can work independently from one another – and that saves time and money.

Five steps to website localisation

 

  • Include localisation in the concept phase of the website 
  • Prioritise target markets, for example by using website access numbers
  • Filter out content relevant for the target country – and ignore the rest
  • Take texts into account – as well as the visual context such as colours, images and videos 
  • Keep the content up to date – on the main page and the translated country pages