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4 Website Localization Challenges for a User Interface

In its simplest form, the process of website localization can be considered to be a translation of the website user interface into the languages of the target locales. In reality, things get much more complex. Considerations must be made for all website aspects that will have an impact on functionality and the global user experience.

Here are 4 website localization challenges for a user inferace to consider:

1. Localization issues regarding website text

Perhaps the most obvious website localization challenge is in regard to the text content of a user interface, specifically, the readability of words and phrases. Legibility is as important in any translated language as it is English especially with so many people accessing web content on a myriad of devices and screen sizes.

  • Website design considerations should certainly be made for the expansion of text after it has been localized into different languages. During the translation process, the text length can fluctuate by as much as 40 to 100 per cent. This has implications on the look of the web interface; what may have had a pleasant appearance before may look confusing after the website text has been translated.

  • Words in certain languages, for example German, tend to be much longer. If this extra length is not accounted for, it will likely cause unexpected breaks in the text which can result in the corruption of the layout.

  • Certain acronyms or initialisms do not exist in other languages and are written out in full form. If in your website you base the spacing of an element around an acronym, this most likely will have to be resized after language translation.

2. Considerations when changing between character sets.

A character set is the digitally displayed representation of a language using symbols, ideograms, letters or other elements of that language’s script. For example, English uses the Latin Alphabet, Chinese makes use of logograms and ancient civilizations often used pictograms. Not all scripts read from left to right as is the case with the Latin derived English language scripts. Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and Urdu scripts run from right to left, while some Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese often run from top to bottom.

This difference can turn a well presented web interface into a puzzle when it is translated from one character set to another. The trick here is not to work retrospectively and to attempt to adapt the layout, but to incorporate localization into the initial design of the interface. Time spent thinking about global considerations will protect the integrity of a well-designed interface during the localization process.

3. The importance of getting images right

Similar to text, images can take on a different meaning in different cultures. The same picture can inspire two entirely different reactions in two different parts of the world.

This is never more apparent than when images depict people. What may be benign in some countries may well be seen as antagonistic in others. Such examples could include finger and hand gestures, or images of people clothed inappropriately for certain cultures.

4. Overcoming inconsistencies in formatting

Correct formatting in numbers, dates, postal codes and sentence structure are paramount for reasons of both functionality, when processing data entered in forms, and also for effective communication of information to the user.

When populating your user interface with text values stored in a database, it is important to think about placement of the pulled data. For example, let’s say you built an HRIS web application and had a sentence saying, “You have 23 candidates to review for this position.” The number 23 would most likely need to be stored in and pulled from a database. This sentence structure works well in English, but not in other languages where the word order would change. Therefore it is better to have a sentence structure that puts the database value at the end of the sentence: “Number of candidate to review for this position: 23.”

In addition, there are a wide variety of time, date, number, postal code, phone number and currency format options used around the world. Time is displayed in either a 12 or 24 hour format, and the date can be represented with either the day or the month preceding the year. Currency denominations are indicated with specific symbols and their values in thousands can be written with commas, spaces, or periods. Without a coherent strategy for presenting and collecting such information in different languages into which you localize, misinterpretation will inevitably occur.

A good time to call in the Cavalry

With so many issues and pitfalls possible during localization, there can be no substitute for experience in developing a website localization strategy. As experts in website and software localization, Venga Global offers a complete range of website localization tools and services to assist you in your global marketing and expansion efforts. Drawing on decades of experience, we can provide comprehensive solutions and support for all of your localization goals.

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