Did you know that only 375 million people—out of over 7 billion worldwide—speak English as their first language? Considering this, an English-only website may not cut it if you’re trying to reach more of the world’s population.
In fact, research shows that in order to reach 90 percent of online audiences around the globe, you need 21 languages.
So if you’re about to take your online presence global, make sure you are well-informed before heading down the website localization path. There are a lot of common misunderstandings out there that can throw you off. But don’t fret. I’m here to clear them up for you.
Myth #1: Website localization only requires translating the copy
This is probably the single most common misunderstanding with website localization. Many people assume the words merely get translated for the website, not realizing that it is also necessary to address technical components with this type of project.
Website localization is actually a highly technical undertaking with much to consider. Your site may need to accommodate new scripts and potentially even changes to text directionality. If your Web management system can’t support multilingual content, many challenges can surface.
In addition to the technical hosting aspect, you’ll also need to consider how to present the language options to your international Web users. Popular options include a language drop-down list, a completely different site (and URL) for each language or automatically selecting a language based on the user’s IP address. Because of the technical intricacies, you may need to work with an expert team that can help you and your developers throughout the process.
Myth #2: My multilingual website works the same as my original site
Because there is a misconception at times that the site will function the same in any language, you may be tempted to skip out on testing.
This can be risky, though, because your site may be riddled with unknown issues. Translated content needs to go through the same rigorous testing that the original source content went through when building the initial site. In fact, in some instances, a greater amount of testing is required to ensure that the content is displayed correctly to the user and meets locale-specific needs.
As one example, imagine a clickable button with the phrase “request a demo” translated into German. Without thorough testing, you may not know that the phrase gets completely cut off of the button because of text expansion that occurred during translation.
This is just one instance showing why testing can save you a lot of time and money on rework in the long run. Check out Pseudo localization 101: Localizability testing for software and websites to learn more about testing’s role in website localization.
Myth #3: Website localization is a one-and-done project
Website owners often overlook the costs of maintaining the translated content in line with the source content. If you frequently update your website—and plan to make the same changes to your translated versions too—you’ll want to consider and plan for these maintenance costs ahead of time.
Forgetting to factor this into your plan can mean scrambling to come up with additional budget at the last minute—or worse yet, neglecting your multilingual sites altogether because the funds aren’t there to update them.
Myth #4: You don’t need to touch the website design or content
This might be true in some cases, but don’t rule out the possibility that you may have to change up your website graphics, colors, videos, symbols and more to make your site more culturally appropriate for your target audiences.
It’s important to do your research on these factors because you don’t want to paint the wrong picture of your brand and turn potential customers’ heads the wrong way.
For instance, in China the color red symbolizes good fortune, but in Egypt it stands for cruelty and death. Therefore you need to consider whether the color scheme conveys the right message for a given region. You may also want to consider using pictures of people of the culture you’re targeting as your site images to make them more effective and relatable. To learn more about these areas of website localization, check out 3 ways to seize more global market share with website localization.
Hopefully this information has helped clear up some of the common misunderstandings around website localization. Though there is much to consider, it doesn’t have to be headache-inducing. You just need the right partner to lean on.
If you want to keep studying up, check out Website localization: Best practices for going global for some handy tips to make the process smooth.
Was there anything else that you were surprised to learn when you localized your website? I’d love to hear about it!
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