Let's talk about localization

Published by Jernej
on 18 September 2019
Port town with vibrant local community at sunset

So, you’re thinking about starting an international web portal? Or maybe you have a website that is targeted for more than one language? You might have a B2B application and want to expand your market to other parts of the world? Then you should read on ...

Most of you probably think that in order to launch your product, site or service world-wide, all you need is to translate it. Guess again. That’s not enough. 

The world is represented by many different countries and by extension by many different cultures. Each culture has their own “niche” habits, behaviors and even perspectives on things. The same sentence might appeal to someone while offending someone else.

Even the structure of the content can lead to bad conversion rates if it’s not tailored to the target audience. This is where localization comes into play. 

As the name implies, localization means to make something feel local. Something that connects with the audience you are targeting. This means that you need to get your hands dirty and do the research

For example, if you want to expand your product to China, make sure to study its culture and their habits. How do most  Chinese sites structure their content? What are the best practices for user experience? How does the navigation look? How big are the images? How do they read the text? Those are just a few questions that you need to answer. 

After you have most (if not all) of the answers, you need to start implementing the solutions. This means that you often need to drastically change the layout and the content of the site. Even changing an image on a blog post can have a positive effect on its performance. 

A great example of good localization is the MSN website. The screenshots below demonstrate the English and the Chinese versions of the website. Notice the difference?

 

English version of MSN website

English version of the MSN website

 

Chinese version of MSN website

Chinese version of the MSN website

 

If you take the time and visit both msn.com and msn.cn you will see quite a difference in both the layout and the content itself. In comparison, we can deduce that the regular website favors imagery over text, and the opposite applies to the Chinese website. And this is only the homepage we’re talking about!

Another good example is Starbucks’ website. Below you can see the comparison of Starbucks.com and the Japanese version. 

 

English version of Starbucks website

English version of the Starbucks website

 

Japanese version of Starbucks website

Japanese version of the Starbucks website

 

As you can see again, the pages are vastly different. The Japanese website is packed with a lot more information compared to the regular website. Again the trend of large images over text is clearly visible. 

Localization by itself is a huge topic and we won’t cover all of its aspects in this post, but I want to briefly talk about one website feature that doesn't need localization, as it is seen as a best practice in any culture - namely, good website performance

Many of you might live in a part of the world where you get quite a decent internet connection. I like to think of internet speed like water. There are places in the world where there are large bodies of water with fast streams, but there are also places where water is scarce. The same applies to internet speed. 

This means that we need to make sure that our websites run as fast and are as optimized as they possibly can be. Not everyone can afford the luxury of fast internet access and if the page loads slowly you’re likely to lose a potential new client or user. Humans are not patient beings that are willing to wait for your page to load. 

One of the things that impact the performance of a website are images. There are a lot of handy ways to optimize images in order to achieve faster-loading websites. If your site is built on the Drupal CMS, however, you don’t even need to do any extra coding - all the image optimization features are available right in the core

If you want to learn about more ways of improving the performance of your Drupal website, Ana has you covered with her tips to speed up your Drupal site

This brings this post to a close, but just to recap: 

  • Translations are not enough.
  • Make sure to study your target audience and their habits.
  • Customize the structure and the content of the website.
  • Make sure to optimize your website for slow internet connections
  • Don’t be afraid to drastically customize the layout of the website.
  • Small changes can go a long way.