What is website localisation?

Website localisation is the process of adapting the content of your website so that is it’s appropriate for audiences around the world.

What’s the difference between translation and localisation?

The main aspect of website localisation is translation, but localisation goes beyond straightforward text translation, and takes into account other factors that will influence your target audience, such as style, design and imagery.

Depending on the languages you select for translation, it may be necessary to adjust elements of your website, such as time, date and currency formats, as well as reversal of page layouts for right-to-left reading for languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

For example, the ‘thumbs up’ gesture can be seen as rude and offensive in some cultures, and colours have different meaning and significance in other cultures.

True website localisation means local knowledge of web practice and knowledge of the local culture, as well as just language. If you make mistakes in your translation, you can offend your audience very quickly. Worst of all, if you don’t speak the language, how would you even know?

When is the right time to ‘go global’ with my site?

That depends on your business plan. You may just want to be more visible to Asian markets, or you may be specifically targeting customers near your new French office. Either way, a good language service provider will be able to discuss the best way to reach those people. How ‘local’ your website localisation becomes depends on your needs, so an upfront consultation can save you a lot of time in the long run.

What languages should I translate into?

Again, that depends on your business objectives and your target audience. It’s important to not only consider which languages your online visitors will speak, but also, which markets and languages would bring strong buying power.

Internet users by language:

Do I really need to bother? My audience speaks English pretty well

That all depends on the level of service you want to provide for your users. Sometimes website localisation gives a level of intimacy and tailored service that is just as much about the reader’s impression of your effort and understanding, as it is about your products and services. A company that goes to the trouble of speaking to you in your native tongue will come across as one that will go to the trouble of taking care of you in every other way too.

You might not even realise that your audience speaks another language.

Many large countries have a growing number of different languages spoken within local communities; so even if you don’t sell outside of your domestic market, your target audience may not necessarily understand your source language.

If your budgets are tight, or you just want to ‘test the waters’, a full translation isn’t always necessary. Gist translation provides a basic level of understanding at a lower rate.

A blend of languages may be appropriate for you, as you may want to retain tabs, buttons and contact details in your source language.

Finding the perfect balance is where a translation services provider can be invaluable.

How does website localisation work?

There are 3 main approaches to website localisation, which one you choose will depends on your objectives, time frame and website set up.

1. File transfer

File transfer is the traditional method for website localisation, and involves exporting files from your Content Management System (CMS) and manually sending them for translation. It’s appropriate for smaller websites, websites with static content and custom-built websites (not using a traditional CMS).

2. Website translation proxy

Website translation proxy sits in front of your website and overlays translations so that different audience segments can see content in their local languages. Content is ‘crawled’ from your website, and source text is replaced (in real time) by the available translations. It’s appropriate for businesses who regularly create online content, such as blog posts, and websites requiring translation as fast as possible.

3. Content Management System (CMS) integration

Using a piece of technology which connects to your CMS via an integrated plugin, content is marked for translation and sent directly to your translation provider, allowing you to manage translations within your CMS. An API (application program interface) between CMS and the TMS (Translation Management System) transmits the source text and the translated text seamlessly, ready for you to publish. It’s appropriate for larger websites, websites using a conventional CMS, and businesses which require content editing to be done at a target country level.

How long does website localisation take?

It all depends on the scope of your site and the availability of whoever provides your translation services. Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead with localisation it can be tempting to rush, especially if your competitors already have localised content for that market. But the devil is in the details, and to get it wrong could damage your reputation.

Errors can be shared online in seconds, if you want your presence to endure, take your time to get everything right.

Remember, you may be localising for a certain market, but you need to ensure every individual reader feels like your website is just for them.

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