What Is Localization?

When you create a business strategy involving global expansion, later, when it’s time to begin doing business in another country or serving customers there, the focus changes. You will find your team concentrating on everything local to the new market. This process is localization.

What is localization? We’ll provide a localization definition in this guide. We’ll also cover the benefits of localization, app and website localization, helpful tips, and some mistakes to avoid. 

What Is Localization Exactly?

Localization, or L10n, is the process of adjusting products, services, and content to align with the needs of a local market. It is related to, but not the same as translation. While translation focuses on language alone, localization involves:

  • Ensuring that meaning and messaging are retained during translation
  • Showing respect for local culture and customs
  • Modifying user interfaces and displays to accommodate local dialect
  • Using the appropriate date and currency formats
  • Changing imagery and color schemes to adapt to local expectations
  • Adjusting content to be more relevant to local audiences

Businesses must consider every element that may come into contact with potential customers, local employees, and business associates when localizing. This scope includes websites, apps, user manuals, marketing content, and product packaging.

Localization also impacts employee manuals, contracts, schematics, technical documentation, and training materials.

What Are Its Benefits?

There are numerous benefits to localization. 

First, you make it easier for new customers to relate to your company and understand what you have to offer. Second, you create goodwill by respecting local culture and being willing to meet customers’ needs. Third, businesses that localize enjoy greater credibility. Ultimately, localization can lead to an increase in sales.

How to Localize Your Software for Different Markets

We’ve answered the question, “what does localization mean,” but how is it done? When you localize, chances are you will see the most significant impact by focusing on your software.

Localization Starts with Internationalization

Internationalization lays the groundwork for software localization. It ensures that design and development can accommodate localization in the future. This approach includes:

  • Avoiding hardcoding variables
  • Leaving enough room in user interfaces to accommodate different languages
  • Testing apps and websites with pseudo-localization
  • Adopting Unicode

The idea is to be able to adapt quickly and catch software issues early when you move into new markets.

The Relationship Between Translation and Localization

Localization doesn’t always involve translation, but it often does. Therefore, it’s essential that any translation of software content also considers localization. That means considering the meaning and intent of the original, then modifying it to be relevant to the new audience.

Localizing Images and Videos

Visuals are important for any audience. During localization, you review your existing images and videos to ensure they are meaningful and relevant to your new target audience. If not, then they must be changed to ensure they are.

Tips to Ensure a Successful Localization Process

Here are some quick tips to help optimize the localization process:

Create a Translation Dictionary

This dictionary will contain meanings of industry-specific jargon, anecdotes, slang, references, etc., that may not translate directly. This reference will allow translation and localization to proceed together. It will also streamline your localization process going forward.

Layout Screens Carefully

Screens should have enough room for text expansion. They should also accommodate different reading styles (left-to-right vs. right-to-left).

Performance Is Localization

Not every region has high-speed internet. Consider that before implementing complex scripts or resource-intensive visuals.

Provide the Option to Switch Languages

Your customers may prefer interacting with your site in English, their first language, or another language they happen to know. Let them switch to a different language on your app or website.

Cultural Sensitivity in Localization

Good localization practices emphasize cultural sensitivity. Any content you present to potential customers or associates should respect their cultural rules and traditions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid Localization

The localization process will be much more successful if you avoid the following mistakes:

  • Embedding text in images
  • Relying on machine translation
  • Not considering keywords when preparing to localize and translate
  • Confusing regions with languages
  • Failing to embrace continuous localization

Keep these potential mistakes in mind when creating your localization strategy.

Real-World Examples of Localization

Some of the most successful international companies use localization to appeal to audiences. These include: 

Coca-Cola Japan

If you visit the website Coca-Cola serves up in Japan, you will find that it is starkly different from the US version. The page is crowded with images and text and might overwhelm western sensibilities. However, audiences there prefer to have that level of information displayed so they can learn about products quickly.

WWF

The World Wildlife Foundation understands that people in different regions have varying interests and concerns regarding saving wild animals. Because of this, they customize content for each region. This customization ensures relevance and engagement.

Localization Resources

We’re proud to offer a variety of helpful resources on localization. This whitepaper on the State of Continuous Localization provides an excellent foundation. 

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