In a world that relies on sights and sounds, a localized website isn’t just about the X’s and Y’s
The web is a mighty and vast place, and despite some people thinking that the majority of web users are fluent in English, statistics suggest otherwise:
3/4 of web users speak languages other than English. How will you reach them?
Your immediate response might be to either simply translate your text to the markets you’re hoping to reach, or to rely on the translations performed by the end user’s web browser of choice.
But there are significant issues with both of these responses. Just translating your text does a disservice not only to your website, but to the user experience of your international market, since your website is made up of far more than the words on the screen.
And relying on a browser’s computer-generated translation is just about the worst thing you can do to help build a global audience. These translations are seldom accurate and result in translations that are awkward, incorrect, and often times misrepresentative.
If you want to reach a global audience on the web, you have to take control of how your site comes across in certain languages and cultures. Yet, to translate your website isn’t enough – you have to localize it.
What is website localization?
To understand what website localization is, it helps to consider what a website is. Your website is one of the most effective marketing tools you have. If designed correctly, your website will attract motivated customers and funnel them through the buy cycle, all the way toward conversion. A conversion could be a purchase, a click, providing an email address – it depends on your specific needs. Regardless, if your website does its job, it helps to propel your business.
If your website was just a series of paragraphs on several web pages, do you think that you’d get any conversions?
That’s because we live in a multimedia world, where technology and expectations demand that you provide a total user experience.
Here are some ways that your website offers this kind of experience:
Pictures - Pictures on your website are designed to draw attention while also telling a story quickly. When you choose images for your site, you should always consider your target audience. Thus, the images you chose for an American-based audience will likely not be the same as the images you choose for an Asian audience. Cityville is a good example. The website banner image on the Japanese version of Cityville incorporates people who appear more Asian, and it also features the Japanese flag.
Gestures – In American websites, when you want to symbolize a job well done, or some
type of enthusiasm, you might feature an image or icon of a thumbs up. It makes sense,however, in some parts of the Middle East, that’s the last thing you want to feature on a website, a
s it can have the same meaning as when we here in the US show off our middle fingers. There are endless types of gestures that affect the message of a website (some cultures don’t want to see the bottoms of feet), and only a website localization agency like Lingosphere Group would know what to change on your website.
Cultural divide – When we think about website localization, we immediately think about foreign languages. But again, that’s just simplifying website localization into a textual concept. Here’s evidence that website localization is, indeed, more than words: In the U.S., even today, it’s not uncommon to see corporate-related images include men and women in suits. In a country like New Zealand, however, featuring an image like that might form a disconnect with your audience. New Zealanders speak English, and could certainly understand your website’s text, but they may not connect to it, because in New Zealand, business casual is the norm. Every culture across the globe has its own subtle nuances that should be factored into your website localization.
Color sensitivity – Color has a significant impact on humans, psychologically speaking. Businesses spend thousands of dollars creating logos and websites that incorporate colors that reach their audience and encourage action. But the way a color affects someone in the Western world can differ greatly than how it affects someone in the East. For example, in the West, brides often wear white, thus businesses in the wedding industry use that color in excess. In the East, however, brides often wear red. In South Africa, red is the color of mourning, whereas in Russia (and countries of the former Soviet Union), it might conjure up memories of communism and the Bolsheviks. Website localization includes adapting the color scheme of your website to each of your targeted cultures.
Acceptable displays – In the US, there’s a push toward the “minimalist” approach to web design – less is more. We suggest, then, that you avoid looking at any Japanese websites. They might give you a panic attack. Japanese-based websites use tons of text, images, clashing (and flashing) colors and scrolling upon scrolling. It might look like a mess to us, but it’s pure bliss to a Japanese audience, thus your website must adapt.
The silly little details – While it’s important to translate your major concepts into the languages of the markets you’re hoping to reach, don’t forget about the little details that are often overlooked, unless you’re working with a professional website localization expert. For example, one country might display dates as: November 15, 2014, while another country uses: 15 November, 2015. Some countries use a 12-hour clock, while others use a 24-hour clock.
Whenever you’re actively reaching out to a foreign market, your goal is to convey your message accurately, while doing everything you can to gain the respect and loyalty of your new audience. Website localization is the most effective way for you to improve the performance of your online persona, while also helping to increase the conversion rate of one of your most powerful marketing tools – your website. Lingosphere Group can help.