It can be hard to notice all important things when working on a localization project. All the content can contain meanings which don’t work well in the target market. We are often unable to see the most fundamental, hidden cultural assumptions ourselves because we are so used to them. A localization project is most successful when all the details point to the same direction and tell a cohesive story. Here are five elements that deserve some attention in every localization project.
Links – Links direct people to additional information. The value of the link disappears if the reader can’t understand the content on the page. Any company who has different web pages for different languages should make sure that the links direct to the content in right languages. However, if the website or some pages are only in one language, then it’s time to think does the link bring any value at all to the user.
Currencies – The local currency is always the most familiar. People are used to it and can evaluate the price easily in their ‘own’ currency. By using some other currency, you are making the purchase decision much harder. Localized prices make the product or service feel more accessible. Luckily, many web store services make the currency conversions automatically.
Communication style – Words aren’t everything. How you say something is as important as what you say. It’s often OK to go to the point right away when you talk to a Finn, but small talk and more indirect approach might be needed with other cultures. It’s the same with word choices. Think carefully before you choose between the informal and formal way to talk. It doesn’t matter if the words are translated correctly if the message is perceived as unkind or impolite.
Images – Any typical image is loaded with information. Every element of an image has a message and the viewer interprets the image from his own cultural point of view. The risk of unintentional meanings is real. This is why e.g. IKEA does not only translate the texts and prices in their catalogs but often they also shoot another set of photos with local models to ensure that the local people can relate to the set-up. Basically, only a local expert can tell if an image is suitable or not.
Colors – Although color symbolism is quite universal nowadays, it’s important to analyze what kinds of thoughts the colors of your choice evoke among the local audience. The message and the colors should be in line with each others. Mixed feelings may prevent people from buying your product or service. In the best case, the good color choice complements and highlights the desired emotions. The common practice of keeping the brand colors the same in all locations is one option, but you should always find out if it’s the right option for your case.
It’s not always necessary to localize everything. A typical localization project involves more or less compromises. The critical part is to see which things are the most important to the potential customers. If you put enough energy and resources in this task, you’re likely to avoid some hassle later.
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