Your website is a crucial asset for all departments across your company. Maybe it includes an e-shop, making sales possible around the clock. Maybe it’s the home of a company blog that increases your brand awareness and motivates potential customers to pick up the phone and request a quote. Regardless of the content it hosts, you probably know the importance an appealing design has over the actions of your users – with this in mind, what’s your global UX strategy looking like?
If you’re planning on expansion, your online storefront can become an essential tool, helping you grow internationally at relatively low costs, without the need to open a location in your target region. But, while a great design can keep a user scrolling, it won’t account for much if your content is not in a language they understand.
Machine translation might be the fastest and cheapest option — but it’s not the best. Machine translation tool can rarely handle nuances of tone, meaning, and intent. But human translation isn’t a quality guarantee either. Overworked translators trying to guess the context of the strings they’re working with and feeding isolated lines to an Excel sheet rarely makes for a properly translated UI.
A poor translation might erode your credibility, making you look like a company that is successful in its home country, but that’s not ready for foreign markets yet. But, a good translation isn’t enough either.
If you want to stand out, engage your customers and grow internationally, you should partner up with a team that’s knowledgeable about UX best practices, has a proper understanding of your interface and a cutting-edge toolkit. You should look for a team that can localize your website.
The Fundamentals of International User Experience
Localization is a process through which a website or product is adapted, not only to the linguistic needs of a new audience but also to their cultural, technical and regulatory standards.
For instance, while a translator can produce a flawless translation of a piece of copy, that reads just as smooth as the original, a localization team will also make sure all prices and measurements are in the locally accepted format, and that you’re targeting keywords that are relevant to your new audience. They will also make sure the images that come along with the copy are appropriate, and they could even join a development team to make sure your website is optimized for the devices that your new audience is most likely to be using.
Let’s say you’re expanding to a market where internet penetration was driven by smartphone usage. Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon a task if the website they’re in is not optimized for mobiles. So, while mobile optimization is always very important, it will take an even greater relevance in this new market. Well, let’s suppose that this is a developing nation where most users can only access a 3G or 4G mobile connection. Having a website that’s not only responsive but also optimized for low-connectivity mobiles will be vital.
Localizing your website is just one step in a much larger process. If you’d like to learn more about how to garner a new international audience, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to global marketing.
All these technical aspects of how a user will access your site should be a part of your localization process. But before localization can take place, your website will need to be internationalized.
Designing for Internationalization
Your brand should be consistent and recognizable across locales. This includes how your website looks and feels.
Adapting a website that wasn’t designed with expansion in mind might leave you at a crossroads, having to choose between brand consistency and a smooth user experience. For instance, you might find yourself having to change your websites’ fonts because they don’t include your target language’s special characters. To ensure your brand consistency, consider using variations of traditional fonts that contain the necessary characters.
On the other hand, consider how your user will enter the correct version of your website. Will you detect their browser’s language? Will you detect their location? Make sure you include a language/locale switch somewhere visible. It might in the header, in the footer, or at the end of your menu.
If you’re planning to expand to a locale with a right-to-left language (for instance, if you’re considering localizing your website to appeal to an Israeli audience), make sure your website’s templates are ready to experience changes such as mirroring without breaking.
Be Relevant, Experiment
Technology has certainly lowered the costs of global expansion. But that doesn’t mean that expansion has become a hands-off process. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing, and keep an eye on how your users are interacting with your website. Don’t be afraid to A/B test, improve and optimize as you go – just as you’d do with your regular website.
- For cross-cultural understanding, translate. For quality engagement, localize.
- Localization isn’t just about language or culture, it’s about optimizing for the way your users will access (and interact with) your website.
- Internationalize first, to get an aesthetically and thematically consistent website across locales.
- You’ll probably need to ask for external help. Reach out to an expert.