How to Localize a Website the Right Way: An Actionable Guide with Examples
15 min. read
As much as 40% of web shoppers, won’t buy from unlocalized websites.
Clearly, website localization is as much a sign of business success as a path to it.
By adapting your website to the needs and preferences of new markets, you can increase engagement, attract more visitors, and grow your business. To make it happen, discover how to localize a website in 7 steps.
Pro tip: Streamline your website localization process by using a localization management platform like Centus. The platform allows managing distributed localization experts and workflows from a single pane of glass. Learn more.
What is Website Localization?
Website localization is the process of adapting a website's content, design, and functionality to meet the requirements of a new locale.
While translation is essential, it is only one part of localization. Understanding the target audience’s culture, values, and preferences is what sets apart successful website localization projects from failing ones.
Before you undertake a lengthy and costly localization project, let’s consider the benefits it could bring.
5 Key Reasons to Localize a Website
To become your customers, prospects need to understand you. And the data bears this out.
A global survey has found that:
73% of consumers prefer to read product reviews in their native language when conducting online shopping.
67% of people surveyed said that they tolerated websites with mixed languages.
40% of shoppers would not purchase from a website in another language.
Based on the data above, any business must learn how to localize a website to reach out to potential customers from different cultures and countries.
Here are the key benefits of localizing a website:
Businesses can expand their customer base and reach by catering to the needs and preferences of international customers.
Localized websites provide a better customer experience by presenting content in their preferred language, utilizing images, and symbols that are familiar to them.
Businesses can build trust and credibility with international clients by demonstrating an understanding of the local culture and customs.
The seamless experience of a website tailored to a local audience can lead to increased sales because it meets the needs and preferences of customers.
By localizing your website, you can gain a competitive advantage over other businesses that have not made the effort to adapt to the local market.
Now that you know why website internationalization is beneficial, let’s see how to do it right.
How to Localize a Website in 7 Steps
Ahead is a quick overview of the website localization process. Keep reading for a detailed explanation of each step.
Step 1. Create a localization strategy: Develop a localization strategy based on market research and your content audit.
Step 2. Choose a translation management solution: Use it to streamline the website localization process.
Step 3. Translate your website content: Use either professional translation services or automated translation tools coupled with human verification.
Step 4. Localize your website design and layout: Adapt your website's design to your audience's preferences like culturally appropriate images, colors, and fonts.
Step 5. Optimize your website for local search: Use local keywords and phrases to improve your website's visibility in local search results.
Step 6. Test and refine your content: Adjust the localized version of your site after testing it in the new markets.
Step 7. Promote your localized site: Conduct localized digital marketing campaigns to increase your website’s visibility and reach.
Now, let’s look at each step in greater detail so you would know exactly how to localize a website.
Step 1: Develop a localization strategy
A well-planned strategy is essential to successful website localization. Here’s how to develop a website localization strategy.
Determine your target audience
Understanding your target users is one of the most important steps in localizing a website. While your domestic audience may find your content interesting and informative, it may not be relevant to other countries or regions. Analyzing the language, culture, and preferences of your audience will help you target the right countries and regions.
Analyze the language, culture, and preferences of your target audience
After identifying your target countries and regions, you must analyze their different languages, cultures, and preferences. To create a content localization strategy that resonates with your intended audience, you need to understand their language and culture. Your multilingual website should use language, idioms, and expressions relevant to your target markets.
Along with their language and culture, you should also consider your internet users' preferences. In some cultures, visual content is preferred over text content. Cultures that emphasize nonverbal communication, pictorial languages, and aesthetics may influence the preference for visual content.
A case in point is the Asian cultures of Japan and China where visual content is often preferred over text content due to the long history of pictorial characters in their writing systems. These cultures rely heavily on graphics and illustrations to communicate meaning through visual aesthetics.
In many African cultures, traditional storytelling utilizes visual aids such as masks, dances, and songs to convey meaning nonverbally. Across these cultures, visual content is seen as a powerful way to communicate values, history, and cultural identity.
Audit your content
As soon as you have identified where your new clients are, analyze your web content. Identify the pages, sections, and elements that need to be translated and adapted to meet the preferences of your new audience.
Prepare your website
Before you begin the localization process, make sure that your website is ready for the changes. User interface, code, and formatting should support localized versions and characters without affecting website functionality. To this end, use language-specific URLs, tags, and language switchers.
Don't have a website yet? Don't miss our comprehensive guide on building a multilingual website from scratch.
Step 2: Choose a translation management system
The purpose of a translation management system (TMS) is to help businesses manage their translation projects more efficiently. A TMS features tools for collaboration, project management, terminology management, quality assurance checks, and reporting.
Centus is a TMS you can use to cut localization costs and speed up project delivery.
Centus’ most important features:
Machine translation technology that speeds up the localization workflow by translating large volumes of content.
Translation memory to store previous translations, making future edits faster and more consistent.
Glossaries to ensure consistent terminology across multiple languages.
API integration for seamless connection with other software and systems..
Custom workflows to meet specific needs and requirements of localization stakeholders, thereby ensuring efficient and effective translation management.
Real-time collaboration to assign tasks, work together and stay on top of project progress.
Step 3: Translate your website content
Translation plays a crucial role in the website localization project. Do it right, and your localized website will look professional, making it easier to sell your products or services. Fail it, and risk alienating your prospects and undermining your sales.
Here are a few things to consider when localizing your website.
Hire professional translators or use machine translation
Before you begin translation, you must first determine whether to use machine translation (MT) software or hire a professional translator.
If you opt for MT, maximize the effectiveness of your localization efforts by using a translation management solution. You can choose from a variety of localization MT options, including Centus, which covers all of your localization web site needs, including page content, marketing copy, and social media content.
Let’s look at the pros of using machine translation:
MT is faster than human translation.
Using MT is more budget-friendly than hiring professional translators, especially for large projects.
MT systems maintain consistent quality and style throughout the project by adhering to predefined algorithms and rules.
MT handles large quantities of content and easily adjusts to varying workloads.
Now, let’s consider disadvantages of using machine translation:
MT software does not deliver precise translations, especially when dealing with idiomatic expressions or culture-specific content.
MT systems may have problems supporting some language pairs, resulting in substandard translation.
MT is not characterized by cultural awareness, which might result in inappropriate or offensive translations.
MT might not capture the voice and tone of the original content as well as human translations.
If you decide to hire human translators, consider hiring native speakers of the end-user language and translators who have experience with website translation. Since they are familiar with the nuances of their own language and culture, they can provide accurate and appropriate translations.
Advantages of hiring human translators:
Generally, human translators provide more accurate translations than machines, especially when dealing with complex linguistic nuances.
Translators can recognize cultural differences and modify the content accordingly to ensure the message is understood by the audience.
A human translator can preserve the original content's unique voice and tone, offering a more genuine and engaging user experience.
A localization team can contribute its knowledge and experience, which can benefit specific industries or specialized content.
Disadvantages of hiring human translators:
Human translation generally takes longer than MT, potentially posing challenges for tight deadlines or extensive projects.
Employing human translators can be more costly than using a TMS, particularly for large-scale projects.
Human translators may have different interpretations and styles, so ensuring uniformity among them can be challenging.
Translators may have difficulty managing large amounts of content, slowing the project down.
Learn more about human translation vs machine translation here.
Test the translations
Once your site copy has been translated, test the translations to ensure they are accurate and appropriate. To this end, use native speakers or translation quality assurance (TQA) software.
During the translation process, take into account the nuances of the foreign language and culture. Pay attention to idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms, and cultural references that may not translate directly.
Step 4: How to localize a website design and layout
The process of localizing a website goes beyond content translation. The design and layout of your website should also be tailored to the preferences of your intended audience. You can do it effectively by following these tips.
Adjust website colors
Adapting your website's color to cultural preferences is a key element of a localization strategy. As shown below, colors have different meanings in different cultures, making it crucial to adjust them to your target market.
If you want your website to resonate with your target market, consider researching their color perceptions and preferences. Additionally, you can consult with local designers or marketing professionals.
Use culturally relevant images
Images shouldn’t be neglected in website localisation. Use them to convey your brand message, but ensure they are relevant and appropriate for your audience.
For example, when marketing to Middle Eastern audiences, it's important to use images that respect local customs and traditions. Specifically, use images of modestly dressed people and avoid images of alcohol or pork products.
A case in point is the H&M Saudi Arabia website featuring images that reflect the country's conservative dress code and cultural norms.
In contrast, the H&M USA website incorporates cultural relevance by featuring models and influencers from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of body types, skin tones, and personal styles. In this way, H&M reflects the cultural values of inclusivity and body positivity and appeals to a wide audience in the US.
For other audiences, consider using images of popular local landmarks or cultural symbols. The goal is to create a sense of familiarity and connection with your future clients.
The Coca-Cola Japan website features cherry blossoms and other images that reflect Japanese culture and trends, providing a more personalized and authentic experience for visitors. The website also prominently displays the red color, which is associated with good luck and prosperity in Japanese culture.
The Coca-Cola USA website demonstrates diversity and inclusivity, which are the country’s key cultural values. Throughout the website, people of all ages, races, and backgrounds enjoy Coca-Cola products together, highlighting the brand's commitment to unity.
Adapt website fonts
Fonts should also be considered in a website localization project. Different languages require different fonts, so it's important to choose the right ones for your target markets. For example, Chinese and Japanese require fonts with a larger character set than English, while Arabic requires a different type of script altogether.
Make navigation easy
Make sure your website is easy to navigate and follows the conventions of local web design. For example, right-to-left language speakers are used to seeing the navigation menu on the left side of the page, which is unconventional for speakers of left-to-right languages.
Step 5: Optimize your website for local search
Global search engine optimization (SEO) can increase your website's visibility and attract more organic traffic. What about local SEO? Local SEO is a key component of a website localization project helping businesses reach local audiences and improve their online presence.
Conduct local keyword research
To improve your local search engine rankings, you need to know what search engines are most popular in your target region. In China, Baidu is the most popular search engine, as opposed to Google in the United States.
To target your audience effectively, you must understand the local communities. After identifying the local search engines you should target, optimize your content accordingly. Specifically, include local keywords and phrases in your website's URLs, meta descriptions, titles, and content.
Step 6: Test and refine your content
There is still a long way to go after translating your content. The next step is to test and refine the multilingual version of your website.
Conduct user testing
Localization project testing begins with user testing where you observe real users interacting with your localized website to evaluate its usability. You can conduct localization testing using a variety of methods, including
In-person testing to observe user behavior and ask questions.
Remote user testing to observe user behavior remotely.
A/B testing to compare the performance of two versions of your website.
Collect user feedback
After conducting user testing, it's critical to collect feedback from your audience. Then, use feedback to identify areas for improvement and introduce necessary changes.
Use customer satisfaction surveys to collect user feedback on your website.
Use feedback forms to ask specific questions about user experience with your website.
Use social media to engage your target audience and gather feedback on your website.
Step 7: Promote the localized website
Once the target language version of the website is up and running, it's time to promote it to reach your intended audience and increase traffic and conversions. Here’s how to do it:
- Localize your digital marketing campaigns
Adapt your email marketing and social media campaigns.
Use appropriate images and tone of voice.
- Leverage local influencers
Partner with local influencers.
Ensure their content resonates with your international sales aim.
- Participate in local events and sponsorships
Consider sponsoring local teams or community events.
- Collaborate with local businesses
Partner with other local businesses to increase visibility and reach.
Participate in cross-promotions, joint events, and referral programs.
- Use localized content marketing
Produce blog posts, videos, and infographics that address local concerns using the same language as your audience.
Examples of Great Website Localization
Here are examples of successful multilingual website localization.
Wix has localized its website into over 90 languages, making it accessible around the world. Wix has also developed a website translation tool that allows users to translate their copy using a machine translation method with the option of having it reviewed by a human.
With over 20 language versions available on its multilingual website, Shopify understands the importance of reaching a global audience.
Along with providing translated text, Shopify offers local payment options so customers can shop in their country's currency. In addition, Shopify makes sure its marketing and advertising campaigns reflect the cultural preferences of each target audience, such as creating Chinese ads for the Lunar New Year.
The Airbnb website has been translated into over 60 different languages, making it accessible to a global audience. As part of its website design, Airbnb has incorporated cultural adaptation, such as localized images and search filters tailored to the preferences of each intended audience.
LinkedIn has localized its platform in more than 20 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. As part of its localization strategy, LinkedIn uses culturally-relevant images and adapts its messaging to suit the preferences of each target audience.
Uber has also done a great job of localizing its website. With over 60 languages localized, Uber's platform is accessible to a global audience. A cultural adaptation component of Uber's website design includes localized images and messaging that is tailored to the audience's preferences.
In today's global marketplace, website localization is an essential business strategy to reach a wider audience. To this end market, businesses need to understand both the target audience and its culture. Taking the time to understand the nuances of the target market will enable businesses to make their website more appealing to local audiences and avoid cultural faux pas.
Why is website localization important?
Creating multilingual websites help reach potential customers in different countries and regions. The benefits of localizing a website include increased engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.
What is the best way to translate microcopy when localizing a website?
Hire human translators or use translation software when localizing a website. During the entire process of translation, it is important to consider the nuances of the local language and culture and test the translations for accuracy and appropriateness.
Learn how to manually translate a website page here.
How to adapt design and layout when localizing a website?
When localizing a website, you need to use images, colors, and culturally relevant fonts. It is also important that your website is easy to navigate and understand in the native language.
How to conduct user testing after website localization?
A website that has been localized requires user testing to identify usability or functionality issues. To conduct user testing, recruit participants from your global audience and observe their behavior as they use your website. Focus groups and surveys are also good ways to collect user feedback.
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