Eight aspects you should not overlook when localising your website

Business woman spins globe above laptop

If you want to attract customers from other countries to your website, translation is imperative. If your website is then also localised, nothing stands between you and success.

The following presents you with a helpful list of eight aspects which you should always consider in the localisation of your website.

1. Currencies and units of measurement

Depending on the country, units of measurement are either specified using the imperial or US customary systems or using the metric system. Users on either side of this divide are often at a loss when confronted with the unfamiliar system.

It gets even more complicated when very unique units are used, as is the case in Japan where floorspace is traditionally measured in terms of tatami mats, the size of which even varies between specific regions.

An outsider’s response to such terms would probably be one of alarm, whereas you want to achieve the exact opposite – you want your customer to feel at home on your website.

So if your website includes units of measurement, it would be wise to localise them to target language customs. The same goes for temperature specifications in degrees Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit, or currencies – particularly important for online shops.

2. Writing the date, time and telephone numbers

Date format also varies from country to country; sometimes the day is written first, sometimes the month, and in some cases even the year.

In British English, 05/10/2017 would mean the 5th of October, whereas in American English the same numerical sequence would mean the 10th of May. This can lead to misunderstandings with far-reaching consequences if this is not localised on your website.

Telling the time is also dependent on different conventions, which can dictate a preference for either the 12-hour or the 24-hour system.

Even telephone numbers have country-specific formats, whereby the individual components of a number are either separated by hyphens, slashes or spaces.

The target audience can usually understand what is meant even if a telephone number hasn’t been localised in this way, but if the format has been appropriately adapted it adds to the overall image of your localised website and your customers don’t trip over any formats or ways of writing that are unusual to them.

3. Local laws

The legal guidelines on points such as guarantee, warranty and returns for online shops can vary between countries. Certain situations may call for whole paragraphs in your international online shop to be adapted, deleted or built on in order to comply with local laws.

Even certain retail promotions such as clearance sales are subject to specific guidelines in some countries and thus the terminology in question cannot be used in exactly the same way in foreign-language texts as it is in your source text.

In Belgium, clearance sales (solden) are limited to a specific time frame and cannot take place all year long; in connection with this, there are also off-limit periods in which sales and discounts are not permitted as a method of marketing.

4. Symbols and images

Images which serve to clarify text or provide demonstrative illustrations have to be adapted to the target language to have their full effect.

If, for example, the instructions of a computer program includes screenshots, these have to be exchanged for screenshots in the respective languages to cater for the foreign-language instructions.

A user of the German version of a program won’t get very far if the instructions include screenshots from the Japanese program.

Even if your website just uses images to create a bit of variety and loosen up the page a little, there are still some things to consider. After all, the impact a picture has on visitors to your site can also depend on what culture they come from.

5. Font and background colour

The impact colours have on the beholder is deeply anchored in his or her culture. This means that colours which are seen as happy and positive in certain cultures can have the exact opposite effect in others.

In this vein, countries have different customs when it comes to what colour to wear at a wedding or funeral, for instance.

Even if cultural differences are sometimes not so big at all, they should not be ignored in the localisation of websites or other projects. So take some time and consider your font and background colours.

6. References to famous people, pieces of work, places and events

When referencing famous people, pieces of work, places and events, the effect you want to achieve will dictate the course of action.

For instance, you mention the name of a poet who is renowned for his beautiful verse in order to emphasise the uniqueness of your travel deal.

That is a great tactic, but may lose its desired effect if the poet in question is completely unknown to your foreign-language target customers. If this is the case it may be worth finding a replacement; that is, a poet who for his part is well known in the target country due to his beautiful verse.

On the other hand, it can be exactly this foreign, exotic effect that you want to draw on.

7. Methods of payment

You should also watch out for the methods of payment you offer. A payment method very common in one country might be almost unknown in another.

Which payment method your customers put their confidence in can also depend on their culture and the individual importance they put on security. How secure is payment by credit card? Is it OK to enter your own bank details on an unknown internet site?

Be it advanced payment, SOFORT instant transfer, direct debit, PayPal, credit card, on account or cheque, you should make sure to offer payment methods which are widespread in the target country to ensure that your customers can shop in your online shop in the same way as they are used to doing in their home country.

8. Website structure

After all, the whole structure of a website can vary between cultural regions. Where are the buttons usually located,

and how much text and how many images should there be on your website? Depending on the customs and practices of a language community, a user could interpret one and the same website as either boring and empty or cluttered and chaotic. As a result your website has to be adapted to the target audience accordingly.

The number of elements should also be considered, e.g. the number of items which are displayed next to each other in an online shop. Just as the number 13 is often associated with misfortune in European countries, some Asian countries see the number 4 as a symbol of death, and one that is probably worth avoiding.

Think about these eight points when localising your website

As a general rule, your customer will spend more time on your website if it is available in their language. When units of measurements, font colours, formatting of date, time and telephone numbers and everything else also match the preferences and customs of your target audience then your international customers will feel twice as welcome.

In the case of an online shop, this translates to a higher likelihood of a purchase being made. So with these eight points you actually can’t go wrong.