Think Global – Act Local: Make use of i18n and l10n
Silicon Valley has been doing it for many years: Localization. This term goes back to the 1980s, when large American software giants started expanding their operations globally. In so doing it became essential to create language friendly features and interfaces to become attractive to regular end users.
Localization is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population's "look-and-feel”. Localization is also referred to as l10n.
Therefore, it is important to understand that the translation processes are only one of several elements a localization process actually includes. In addition to translations, the actual localization process may include:
- Adapting graphs to target market needs
- Modifying content to suit different tastes and consumer habits of the target market
- Adapting design and layout to display translated text properly
- Converting to local requirements (currencies, measurement units)
- Adapting to proper local formats for dates, addresses, etc.
- Respecting and applying local regulations and legal rules
- Adapting cultural nuances
By creating a look and feel that is native to the target audience, the performance of your product or service will increase and it will be easier to grow your client base.
Localization vs Internationalization
We just learned that localization is considered an adaption of a product, application or document content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market. When it comes to internationalization, there is no clear definition available, but a common understanding of what internationalization refers to has developed in the industry:
Internationalization is the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language. Internationalization is also referred to as i18n.
Therefore, we can refer to internationalization as a design and development practice, that does not necessarily include the localization of any content. Internationalization should be seen as a deliverable with the intent of presenting it globally.
As a business owner or executive, you should understand the value of internationalization, as it is considered a fundamental step in the design and development process that will spare you from an expensive re-engineering process afterwards.
One way of applying localizations are websites. A website reflects your brand and image online and provides a first impression about your firm to potential clients of yours as well as existing ones. A good website should not be underestimated, as it allows you not only to stay open beyond existing business hours, but also allows you to benefit from globalization and provides the ability to sell your products and services to a larger audience both domestic and overseas.
A website localization is the process of adapting an existing website to local language and culture in the target market, adapting to both linguistic and cultural context of the target market.
Such a localization process may contain adaption of:
- Specific language preferences
- Specific cultural preferences
- Images, graphs and design requirements
Decreasing Cognitive Efforts
Localized websites help decrease cognitive efforts of your visitor, helping them to navigate easier, focusing on the content and the products, rather than being distracted by the language or cultural detail your website visitor might be unfamiliar with.
Studies show that there is a direct link between localized content and a buying decision of your website visitor, meaning a well localized website results in a higher conversion rate from being a visitor to becoming a client and actually resulting in buying your product or service.
A well carried out website localization will result in a natural website experience for the website visitor of the target market.
Another large industry for localizations are software providers. Software localization refers to translation of software, such as software interfaces and messages into another language as well as adapting formats and cultural requirements.
Succeeding in software localization means that coders and localization experts should work closely together. A software developer or coder should adjust his way of work and results according to localization requirements, or at least understand such requirements and take them into consideration, which will result in a better localized product and minimizing the risk of issues with the localized product. Some of such considerations should be:
- Use Unicode
- Images need to be localized too
- Avoid embedding text directly in code
- Translated text may vary in length and density (UI / Pixel Based Layout considerations)
Creating a successful localized software should be done by a localization service provider, who can support you and develops a process tailored to your needs.
Before involving any localization provider, make sure they have the necessary expertise in both programming and the required linguistic and cultural knowledge.