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What is website localization?
Website localization is the process of making a website suitable for a specific target market, entailing numerous parameters that need to be taken into consideration. The goal of website localization does not limit itself to the correct translation of the original text, but is also extended to the evaluation of any cultural and other extralinguistic needs that would make the end result feel as natural as possible. Reaching people speaking the target language can lead to increased traffic to one’s website and, by extension, an increase in sales. But what is actually involved in this process?
Content analysis and planning
First of all, the content of the website has to be thoroughly analyzed against the targeted audience’s needs, habits and preferences before sent for translation. The reason for this is that, for instance, what might seem self-evident to some Spanish‑speaking countries in Latin America might not have the same effect in Spain. Thus, when a company wants to launch a new product in a Spanish-speaking country, specifying the Spanish locale is of crucial importance in order to avoid any cultural misunderstandings or other traps that could lead to confusion. What is more, when more target languages are involved in a website localization project, then planning ahead can help prevent issues and ensure a better end-user experience. Actually, this can start even during the drafting of the source content and website, to make sure they are suitable for localization, a process also known as internationalization.
The actual website localization process
Standard content that does not need any special handling will be translated, reviewed and proofread, as is usually the case in translation projects. However, in a website localization project we should be more vigilant and pose questions such as the following:
- Are there any dates, numbers, currencies, addresses, times or measurement units that should appear differently in the target language?
- Does the website contain any cultural references that should be adapted or explained, so that the content can be linguistically and culturally acceptable for the target audience?
- Are there any images containing non-editable text that should appear in the target language?
- Would the original images be acceptable for the target audience? Some cultures may perceive certain content as disturbing or even offensive.
- Are there any videos that would need to be subtitled? And, if subtitling is not common in the target culture, then would voice-over be an option in order to reach the target audience?
- Does the website use any colors that have a negative connotation in the target culture?
- If the target audience is located in an Arabic-speaking country, is the website able to support text with a right to left direction? Does the architecture of the website need any other changes?
Depending on the answers to questions such as the ones above, the content is handled and localized accordingly. Needless to say that, using professional linguists, and not automated translation options, is of essence for the sake of precision and accuracy.
What about marketing content that needs to feel original and catchy in the target language? Tag lines, slogans or other creative content is transcreated. In other words, the linguists involved in this process do not necessary stick to the translation of the exact wording of the source text, but make sure to fully convey its meaning in a way that would feel natural and appealing in the target language too. It goes without saying that a joke may not be perceived the same way all around the globe, so transcreation and cultural adaptation is necessary.
On the other hand, just because one may have performed SEO research in English or the source language they are using each time for their website, this does not mean that the content would be optimized for the search engines used by the target audience. Therefore, finding the correct keywords for each target language, i.e. performing proper multilingual SEO is of crucial importance for the success of one’s website in each target language.
Using connectors (plugins, proxies or APIs) to transfer website content to translation tools (ex. WPML)
Coming to the more technical aspects, a website can have multiple pages, links to external websites, multimedia, forms and so many other functionalities. Using manual actions to copy and paste the content in order to have it extracted and localized is a thing of the past and prone to errors. Nowadays, there are numerous plugins, proxies or APIs that can transfer website content directly to translation tools, thus making the process quicker, more streamlined and less prone to human error. A characteristic example is that of WPML, which is used for the localization of WordPress websites.
Functional and Linguistic Testing and QA
Once the localization process has been completed, the linguistic testing and QA from native speakers of the target language is performed, as this is a very important step before the localized website goes live. Maybe the text does not look right on smaller screens, maybe the localized content is significantly longer than the source one and you might want to opt for a different layout that would provide a better user experience. Testing and QA rounds are essential for the provision of an impeccable localized website.
There are many reasons why website localization is important, and it is certain that it is a process entailing multiple steps, which can be difficult. However, when done correctly by professionals who know and understand what they are doing, the end result is definitely rewarding for both the companies that opt for it and the end users who enjoy content fully adapted to their needs and expectations.