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10 Tips for Website Localization

As you begin your website localization project, you may be unsure of what information will be most helpful to create a multilingual website that appeals to your global audiences. To help ensure your project is successful, I have compiled a list of ten tips for website localization projects.

For a quick review, let’s start with a couple of basic definitions that are essential to any website localization project.

Website Localization (L10N)

Localization, known as L10N, is defined as the process of adapting a website for a specific international market, which includes translating the content, customizing features and testing results to ensure that the website works in the target language. Localization also involves the process of adapting an internationalized website for a specific language or region by adding locale-specific components.

Website Localization Kit

You will be asked to provide your translation company with a complete set of source files, also known as a localization kit. A website localization kit should include:

  • Your website URL.
  • Information regarding the content management system (CMS) used to author, store and publish content.
  • A summary of the website architecture.
  • Any passwords or login instructions.
  • A summary of any technologies and/or development tools used to develop your website.
  • The contact information for your development team who will participate in the globalization process.
  • The contact information for your marketing team who will participate in the globalization process.
  • All files that make up your website in their original folder/file structure, if applicable.
  • All original graphics used in your website (artwork, background image, navigation buttons, etc).
  • All application source files (Word, FrameMaker, Quark, etc.) for any documentation available via your website.
  • All application source files (Flash, etc.) for any multimedia available via your website.
  • A list of all files that need to be translated.

These files will then be analyzed for:

  • The number of words.
  • The source and target languages.
  • Subject matter.
  • Graphic localization requirements.
  • Desktop publishing (DTP) requirements.
  • Website development platform and process.
  • Internationalization requirements.
  • Client review and approval requirements.
  • Client workflow requirements.
Top 10 Tips for Website Localization
1. Do Local Market Research

Identify the specific locale where your potential customers are located. You must conduct thorough market research in that locale to confirm that your business opportunities and need for a localized website are valid. Consumer habits may vary widely within regions that have shared languages, so local market research is essential.

2. Develop a Glossary

Glossaries are developed to ensure accuracy and consistency in the translation and localization process. You will want your translation team to not only leverage the latest industry-specific dictionaries, but to also guarantee that the glossary is locale-specific as well.

3. Have a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Plan

Early planning for global SEO is a key step in the website localization process. Many companies localize their website and only later start to think about SEO. This sometimes requires more effort and is less effective than including your SEO strategy in the initial localization process. A few effective tactics to use in your multilingual SEO plan include:

  • Deciding your domain structure. Subdirectories, subdomains or country code top-level domain (ccTLDs).
  • Keyword localization. Create your initial keyword list to help optimize your content and then localize those terms for your target market.
  • Local landing pages. Landing pages are the most visited pages on your website. When you create your localized website, you should focus on the content that pertains to your targeted local market. This will require more research on your provided content. For example, if you provide services based on location, you will need to focus your SEO efforts on the local services pages and packages. This will vary from country to country.
4. Do a Cultural Correctness Assessment

Before the actual translation begins, the source web content, website design and feature set are reviewed for basic cultural correctness and customizations that may be required. To achieve maximum success in targeted local markets, you need to fully grasp the locale-specific cultural values.

5. Check the CMS Language Support

A common oversight in website localization is for clients not to check that their CMS has the required language support. This is not a feature to be taken for granted.

6. Verify that the Website Uses Unicode and UTF-8

Make sure that your website will be able to display any language. The Unicode Standard is the universal character encoding standard for written characters and text. It defines a consistent way of encoding multilingual text. UTF-8 has been designed for ease of use with existing ASCII-based systems and it is usually the default encoding that you should be using on any webpage. Setting up the right encoding will ensure that your website’s contents will be correctly displayed. Most CMSs already handle all content as UTF-8 encoded text.

7. Design with Graphics and User Interface in Mind

If possible, use a highly flexible or “fluid” design that allows pages to scale based on dynamic content. If we take an English word as a base, the same word in Russian could be up to 60% longer, while in many Asian languages, the same word could be less than half of the source language width. Based on the complexity of Asian languages, you may need to scale fonts by about a 120% so they are legible. So, as a rule of thumb, you should avoid using fixed-sized containers with text in them. Space should be allowed to expand or contract in accordance with the text character count.

A related issue is that icons, containers and website layout should be culturally acceptable to the intended customer locale. Find more information on this topic in our blog Culturally Customized Website Translation.

8. Have a Location and Language Selector

Visitors to your website need to be able to swiftly indicate their location and language. Special icons in website design should indicate these choices. A variety of layouts and formats are available. Previous research in your project discovery phase should indicate which type of language indicator (e.g. names, icons, etc.) will be most appropriate.

9. Test Your Website Locally

A translation services agency will test your website in the actual locale for which your website is intended. It is critical to ensure that your website design, as well as localization, suits the preferences of your primary global audience.

10. Conduct Social Media Optimization (SMO)

The last step we recommend is to optimize your website for local social media. You will need to add the social media share buttons that are commonly used in your intended local market in order to guarantee traffic from the local social networks. For example, Twitter and Facebook are blocked in China and WeChat and Sina Weibo are two of the most popular social media platforms used there. It’s important that your localized website is optimized for the social networks your target audience uses to help users spread your message, content and offers via their profiles and online activities.