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Why & when should you localise?

Brian Robinson
Brian Robinson
Managing Director UK
5 min read
26 September 2016

Whether you are at the start of defining your localisation strategy or are looking to scale your efforts, you must first decide your approach. Before starting a localisation effort, it is critical to understand what you are trying to accomplish. This step may seem obvious, but failure to identify your primary business objectives and measurable success criteria can set your team up for failure.

Firstly, identify what business problem you are trying to solve. For example, is your main objective to grow a specific market? Or are you launching a new product and need to deliver certain content or applications to support this?

Common reasons to localise include:

Present consistent and up-to-date content across all sites

Localising your website can make it easier and faster to communicate a consistent brand image and messages to customers worldwide, while enabling you to maintain a core infrastructure.

Promote products/provide product information in markets where clients are less directly accessible

Maximising profit today involves reaching beyond your national markets. If your business wants to expand and participate in international trade, accessing an international customer base is vital.

Provide product information to growing markets in their native language

By providing a website in a market’s native language, you can inform and reassure customers that your company understands their culture, speaks their language and treats them equally.

Keep in mind that local language support is not just an issue for companies looking to expand abroad; a company in Belgium, for example, may require French and Flemish language versions of their site to serve their current customers.

Your approach will be determined by how ‘local’ you need your digital touchpoints to be to support your core objectives. Successful initiatives focus on the highest priority objectives first. More often than not, these priorities will require financial, technical and management process alterations to be made, in order to facilitate budget and time-efficient localisation.

The services or products that you sell will define the degree of complexity of your solution. For example, do you operate in a highly regulated sector, impacted by specific market legislation? Do your products require lengthy technical documentation, and does this documentation need to be translated into every language?

The languages you are considering for your localisation strategy will, of course, add to the complexity. This is due not only to the content itself (as previously mentioned, transcreation may be required to ensure your messaging resonates with local audiences), but also impacts the design of your site.

For example:

  • Whilst your navigation might look perfect in English, when it’s converted into German, does the copy wrap and look awkward?
  • Does your design support right-to-left languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew?
  • Does your site need to support double byte encryption, for languages such as Japanese?
  • Will some content be accessible only via log-in? Will this content be in the local language?
  • If users need to log-in, will they do so in English characters or in their native alphabet?
  • Will you need local language search capability, requiring the implementation of a new search application?
  • Can your current hardware and infrastructure manage 24/7 updates (i.e. number of pages that need refreshing when content is uploaded)?
  • Globalising your digital business will require technical support for your content team 24/7. Can your current technical team provide this support?

When’s best to start localising?

Developing a site which is fit for purpose for all of your markets from the outset is critical to ensuring long-term cost efficiency.

The best time to begin your internationalisation and localisation effort is when you are undergoing a site redesign and CMS upgrade, or implementation.

By starting when you are undergoing a site redesign, you can ensure that your new website is flexible, and allows for the necessary modifications in each of the markets.

If you decide to launch in your native language and then attempt to localise at a later date, you will inevitably discover that post-localisation takes double the time and cost.

You may discover that your navigation elements don’t display correctly in different languages, or that your local markets require specific functionality which wasn’t taken into account during the original design and build.

To fix these issues takes time and money to resolve. A patch solution may be created (such as a static HTML page), which will, in turn, be difficult for your content editors to update easily, will require its own process, and may well cause downstream programming costs.

This, in turn, will make your teams far more productive, as a greater amount of time can be spent on the creation of new, relevant content.

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Managing Director UK

Brian Robinson