Localizing a website or mobile app for international audiences can be difficult and time-consuming. You’ll need to be well organized and have the right team on board to assist with your marketing translations. It’s also helpful to be aware of some of the common localization errors so you can streamline your workflow and avoid making potentially costly mistakes.
Fortunately, many brands have gone down this path before, making both small and monumental errors that you can learn from. Clairol and Coors both got localization humorously wrong, while Google has been blocked from use by the Chinese authorities.
By taking note of the errors made by companies before you, and understanding a little about translation and localization before you start, you can avoid the six main translation pitfalls outlined below.
Make Space for Localization
Space to get your message across is paramount to making your website or mobile app design work in multiple languages. Make sure you have enough and use it in a smart way.
Running out of space is a common issue when it comes to localization because different languages take up different amounts of space. Typically, German, French, and Spanish use more characters to say the same thing in English. On the other hand, Japanese, Finnish, and Hebrew usually eat up less space.
If your original language already takes up all the space you have, your CTAs are hard-coded, or your image captions are exactly right for the origin language, you’re going to run into difficulty when localizing for other audiences. You’ll need to think about these differences from the start and figure out how your design can be tweaked to accommodate them.
This might have seemed like a great idea when you were building your app or website for one language. After all, the process saves time and work for the developers; had it ended there, you’d never have any problems. However, when it comes to localizing your content, linked strings (sometimes called concatenating strings) will make no sense to your target audience as their language won’t follow the same structure as the original language.
When you first request your coding to remain unlinked, your development team might grumble, mainly because it’s more time consuming and they may not understand the impact this will have on translators. Once you begin localizing for a number of different languages, however, your teams will be glad the foundations were laid correctly from the start.
Unicode is standard across the computer industry. Your developers should already know what it is and how to use it. If they don’t, you’re probably better off finding alternative developers.
While Unicode is not perfect, it does enable regular depiction of text, regardless of language. By using Unicode characters, you ensure you’re covered for nearly all languages you intend to cater for now and into the future.
UTF-8 is becoming the default encoding system for both email and websites. By adopting it for your own website or app, you guarantee that your website is compatible with almost any language.
Attention to Detail
Localizing a website requires attention to both the big and small details to make sure you deliver a continuous user experience for consumers across every market you access. Something as small as the wrong date configuration can break the user’s interest in your message and attraction to your brand.
Make sure your localization team combs the website or app for these small details and ensure sizes, weights, dates, times, and other measurements are right for the country you are targeting. In some instances, fixing these differences can be as easy as utilizing a program like Java or the jQuery datepicker.
Translating for Language Rather Than Location
Translating for the language without considering the location is an error sure to turn off potential customers. Creating one Spanish version, or even English version, for all of the language speaking customers just won’t work.
For a start, you’ll have to change URL structures each time you launch in a different country. Developers should be as exact as possible with these to allow you to create the right content for the right audience.
Doing this also allows you to appropriately target offers and launch your site without the sort of localization errors that limit your market reach or slow your projects down. This means specifying URL country codes along with the language. Examples of this are en-GB vs en-US for English language sites or es-AR vs es-UY for different Spanish language sites.
Sensitivity to Images
Images may speak a thousand words, but those words will differ depending on who is viewing the image. For example, if you are selling summer vacations, avoid using images of women in swimwear for your Middle Eastern audiences as it will likely cause offense.
Keeping images to a minimum throughout will help you avoid offensive or confusing mistakes. Run the images you do intend to use past your localization team before placing them on your site. Not only will this help you engage with your target audience, it will also decrease each site’s load time and overall cost.
Localization and translation is a task that requires patience, organization, and commitment. Avoid cutting corners and watch out for the above localization traps to ensure your project launches without a hitch.