Website Localization

Website localization is the process of adapting the functionality, look and feel, and language of a website for a specific target market. It includes the internationalization, localization, and translation of both visible and invisible elements comprising a website.

What items are considered for website localization?

Website localization aims to create a website version that feels native to the specific geographic or linguistic region. To reach this goal, the website owner needs to process the content for localization with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Here are the most common visible elements of a website that can undergo adaptation:

  • Copy text,
  • Text on images,
  • Subtitles on video content,
  • Downloadable assets (e.g., ebooks),
  • Header and footer,
  • Pop-up messages,
  • CTA buttons,
  • Product catalogs,
  • Error messages,
  • Contact or subscription forms,
  • Legal notices (e.g., privacy and terms of use).

Invisible elements of a website that need to be localized:

  • Metadata (e.g., meta titles and descriptions),
  • Databases,
  • Permalinks,
  • Image and video titles and descriptions.

Additional aspects to be taken into consideration, like time and date formats for example, as well as reading direction, available spacing for text strings, and others, are dealt with during the pre-translation step called internationalization. This previous step ensures that your final language version for the specific target market will adhere to local standards in layout, formatting, and other elements.

What are best practices for website localization?

The complexity and scope of a website can turn localization into a mountain of a task. To stay on top of all required steps and gain strong insights into progress, deliverables, and finalization, the following tools and flows are considered best practices:

Definition of the target market and language

Market research and analysis will show where product and service adoption potential is highest. The results of such research will point out the most viable geographic and/or economic regions, which in turn will help determine the languages for the website localization. The localization into different target languages can take place progressively. This will also ensure more organized localization management practices.

Internationalization

After having determined the new markets for expansion and the languages required for these target markets, the website should undergo internationalization. This means that the framework, code, and content will be prepared for internet users on a global scale. It is a preparatory step for localization. If done right, no changes to the source code or framework will be necessary during the localization process.

Multilingual keyword research

To improve the results of target language searches and search result ranking, another preparatory step for the translation is multilingual keyword research. The proper use of target language keyword phrases ensures that the multilingual website will rank higher in searches performed in the native language of the target market.

The most effective multilingual keyword phrases should then be added to the termbase and style guide for the translators. This will improve the consistency of the translated content and have a positive impact on searchability.

Project management with a translation management system (TMS)

Managing a localization project involves different departments. Developers, product managers, marketing, and sales, can work closely with the localization manager to ensure optimal flow and to achieve milestones on time. A manual approach could lead to mistakes, frustration, misunderstanding, and loss of information.

Here, the use of a translation management system (TMS) is recommended. The TMS should allow for collaboration, reporting, management of user roles, as well as glossaries, termbases, translation memories, string extraction, in-context previews, and direct communication between translators, localization managers, product owners, and developers.

Ensure translation quality

To ensure and uphold translation quality, translators should be provided with as many supporting documents and guidelines as possible. Such documents include style guides, product information and user guides, glossaries, standardized terms for your industry in the target language, and briefings.

With all these tools at hand, expert translators should produce a high-quality translation. A second quality assurance layer will add to that. This second layer includes a review that ensures not only the natural flow of language but also adherence to the support documentation provided.

Testing

After finalizing the translation, the website versions for each target language should be tested. These tests ensure the usability and the absence of bugs or other errors that could prevent the correct display and use of content on the website.

These tests should be carried out by the developers in collaboration with the translators and product managers. This joint effort will help spot the final issues to fix before the launch of the specific language version of the website.

Version control and updating of localized websites

It is possible that not all pages or items will be displayed in each single language version. This can be due to cultural restrictions, but also because of testing the new market first before fully launching.

This means that version control and updating of the website version should be automated as much as possible to not lose track. TMS that allow for integration with developer tools will help to stay on top of this issue.

What is the core benefit of website localization?

Localizing a website for a specific language and culture improves acceptance and a company’s reputation within that language market. It shows that the business and its products and services respect the visitor’s unique cultural preferences and that they value each culture’s specific requirements for usability and application. The larger effect of these actions is an improved brand reputation for the business as a whole.

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