19 May 2014

How to localise websites: choosing the right content

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Website localisationBefore you go ahead with localising your website, you’ll have to determine the localisation level. In other words, you’ll need to analyse the content of your pages to see if it’s suitable for other cultures and languages and then select what should be localised.

Do your Polish readers really have to know everything about activities of your company
in Germany? Perhaps it would be more effective to write about the activities on the local market. These are the issues you’ll have to resolve to achieve a successfully localised website that caters for the needs of your local visitors. Here are some questions that will help to make this process easier:

1. How important is the target market?

If you’re only looking to present briefly your company to a foreign market, then
it may be enough to localise only the Contact and About pages of your website. Such semi-localised website will give a basic overview of your company, its local branches and contact data. However, if your goal is to prove that you fully value your visitors to gain more customers, you’ll probably have to translate and adapt nearly every page and include more information on the local activities or local payment methods.

2. What do your potential visitors really want to know?

The way users perceive websites varies from country to country. Similarly, in every country users expect to find a different type of content on your website. For example, if you’re localising an online shop into German, you’ll have to include sections such as FAQ, required legal notices (right of withdrawal, general business conditions, etc.) or detailed privacy policy. This way you can build up an image of a serious and trustworthy company that provides users with all significant data. This will also assure potential customers of high quality of your products and services.

3. What is the impact of visual elements?

Website localisation refers not only to the text, but also to all visual elements displayed on your pages. Images, colours and icons will have to be reviewed for cultural suitability. Icons used on your website may not be clear for another target audience (e.g. a US red mailbox as an icon for e-mail) or may have a totally different meaning (e.g. the gesture of thumbs-up is insulting in Greece). Some images may evoke various associations, depending on the cultural background, and the colours used on a website for one country may not be as powerful when used on pages for another country. For example, white colour commonly used on sport or leisure websites in the UK will have to be customised when localising into Chinese, where it’s associated with death and funeral.

4. Are there any items that need to be redesigned?

To reflect the way your users perceive websites and text, you may have to change the position of elements such as menu or scrolling buttons. This is especially required when localising into languages with a right-to-left script, e.g. Arabic or Hebrew. Placing the menu on the right side and scrolling buttons on the left side will definitely increase readability of your website and make it easier for your users to explore the content of your pages.  

5. Is there any content that needs adaptation?

Quite often you’ll have to rewrite your texts before beginning with the localisation process. Marketing texts or articles full of cultural references or country-specific phrases may have to be adapted to make the content clearer and more relevant. This is how you can fully convey your message and convince your website visitors that the text and the whole website are specifically addressed to them.

 What other aspects do you think would be important?

 

About the author: Dorota Pawlak
Dorota helps businesses, organisations and individuals to communicate successfully across cultures in the online and offline world. She is an entrepreneur and a qualified translator specialising in IT and localisation of websites, games and software.

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