Website Localization Dos and Don’ts – How to Get it Right in Times of Crisis

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Adapting your business to the global coronavirus pandemic

Is your business looking to engage with international consumers in new ways, as it adapts to the changes resulting from different countries’ reactions to the new coronavirus? If so, website localization is likely near the top of your task-list (if it’s not, write it there now!). In this article, we’ll define localization, run through the website localization process and explain the benefits of localization vs. internationalization, so that you can get it right the first time.

Companies that want to sell their goods internationally need to understand the difference between internationalization, localization, and globalization as well as how to find the perfect translation company to deliver these services. Let’s dive in.

What are translation and localization?

Firstly, our localization definition: localization is, “the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place.”

What is localization in practice? It is taking documents, apps, websites, products, and other items and adapting them to suit the cultural expectations of particular target groups.

Translation, meanwhile, relates to the conversion of language to suit a specific audience.

Why are these services so important right now?

With the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, the world is experiencing disruption on an incredible scale. The travel industry is broken, individual countries and entire continents are closing their borders, and capitalism is teetering. Companies that want to survive need to do things differently and that means engaging with the world in new ways.

Whether your business is having to switch to remote working, cope with staff shortages or deal with plummeting sales, flexing the way you do things could become key to the survival of your enterprise. That means acting fast and taking advantage of new opportunities that arise in order to remain open and keep the livelihoods of your staff from disappearing.

Thinking about the way that you communicate is a core part of that, as is updating your strategic approach. The current lock-down won’t last forever and, when it ends, people will be eager to get back to normal. Will your translated and localized website be ready when that day comes?

What is website localization?

Website localization is a key part of any company’s localization strategy. The localization meaning in this context refers to adapting every element of a website to suit a particular audience. That means changing date and time formats, punctuation, measurements, colours, graphics and images to match local norms. It can also mean more fundamental changes, such as using Unicode in order to allow for the use of different characters and writing systems.

Website and software localization also relate in large part to the use of language. What is software localization? It’s the part of the localization industry that deals with apps and other computer programs. All of these digital services use language to interact with the user in multiple ways. When the website or app is presented to a new audience, the website or software localization services managing the project have to ensure that the language is translated with that specific audience in mind. That means using a local, native speaker of the target language.

Localizing your website in this way means you can tap into the economic benefits of globalization. The impact of globalization was felt as early as the 1950s, thanks to the booming aviation industry. Between then and 1980, global trade accelerated, growing roughly tenfold. The pace then picked up significantly, with global trade growing by nearly 35 times between 1980 and 2010, according to the European Centre for International Political Economy.

This huge expansion has prompted many businesses to seek a globalization definition and process that fits with their operational model. The globalization pros (and cons) are simply too big to ignore. Countries have embraced this to differing degrees, with Singapore heading up Statista’s Globalization Index, while Djibouti languishes in last place.

Internationalization vs. localization

Before you rush ahead with your website localization project, it’s worth considering whether you first need to internationalize. Need an internationalization definition? Consider it the opposite of localization. Internationalization involves making something as culturally neutral as possible, so that users around the world can engage with it in the same way.

If you’re planning to localize your website for a single country’s audience, then you can crack on with using website translation services and localization techniques. However, if you’re planning a global campaign, it’s worth using an internationalized service first to produce a version of your website that is as adaptable as possible. You can then localize that version for specific audiences more easily than you could your colloquial original site.

How to get your website localization right first time

We’ve talked a bit about localization vs. globalization and internationalization. Now, let’s get down to some practical details. If you want to get your website localization right, you need to shortlist some well-reviewed and respected translation and localization services. Don’t automatically go for the most affordable translation services – experience counts for a lot when it comes to localization, so be prepared to pay in order to benefit from that experience.

Next, be clear with your translation company what your goal is. Ensure your localization meaning and intent matches their understanding, so that you’re working together towards the desired outcome. Give them examples of globalization that have impressed you and build your localization strategy in a way that it achieves the same kind of success.

Another important thing to do is to share as much information about your company, branding, products, audience, goals, etc. with your chosen localization agency. The better the agency understands your needs, the better the service that they can deliver.

Finally, do remember that localization is a collaborative process. Engage fully with the professional translation services that you use in order to get the best out of the process. This means listening to their expert advice. If they say that your website theme won’t work for some reason, for example, it’s probably best to start hunting for a theme that’s more suitable, rather than trying to force your current theme to work in ways it’s not supposed to. You’re paying good money for localization expertise, so be sure to act on it!