Localization Insights
Localization Insights

The Ultimate Localization Checklist

Translation can help get your message across to a new audience. However, it’s localization that will ensure your products and content feel as though they were created specifically with those same users in mind. As the name suggests, localization is the adaptation of a product for a new locale. Along with language translation, content is refined to meet the cultural norms and values of a non-native audience. 

In terms of growth opportunities, few avenues beat international expansion. An effective localization strategy is the only real way to stand a chance at success in new territories. Localization can help you compete in saturated markets, quickly establish an eager customer base and secure brand loyalty, and gain an advantage over competitors.

Ready to resonate with a new target market? Read on for our essential localization checklist. 

Pre-localization preparation 

The first step in the localization process is to identify your market and get a handle on audience demographics. What languages are spoken in the territory you’re focusing on? Are multiple dialects used within the same region? You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with the cultural nuances of a target market and the language you’ll be translating into.  

There’s also the issue of legal and regulatory compliance. Countries can have wildly different laws when it comes to privacy and data protection. What’s more, you might find yourself having to significantly retool your approach if you’re targeting a particularly conservative market. 

However, these aren’t the only factors you’ll need to explore to streamline the localization process. Research will increase the odds of your localized relevant content that resonates with local audiences. However, it also grants you an insight into consumer habits and market trends. All of this bolsters your position and gives you a distinct competitive advantage. 

Content analysis and selection

Now you’ve handled the preliminary work, bonafide localization can begin. Kick things off by deciding which content you’ll be localizing. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated machine translation solutions, localizing all your content is a possibility. However, the process needs to start somewhere, so you’ll need to determine your priorities. 

It makes sense to commence localization with top-performing content. Turn to marketing tools to find out what products and content have been engaging the most users. Weigh the results up against your market research findings and you’ll have a clear idea of what should be localized first. In short, the content that’s going to garner the most attention is where you should begin. 

However, before translation work gets underway, it’s worth assessing the content on your to-do list for cultural appropriateness. If you spot any red flags, consider sidelining the content in question. Alternatively, you’ll need to heavily retool it to ensure it’s not breaching any cultural sensitivities with your new audience. When in doubt, turn to native speakers to help you determine what’s acceptable and what isn’t. 

Linguistic and cultural adaptation 

If you’re looking to ease the burden on translators, create original content that will lend itself well to localization. While it can mean simplifying your messaging slightly, it doesn’t mean having to sanitize it to oblivion. Instead, it’s the practice of keeping colloquialisms and other translation hurdles to a minimum. If you’ve approached content production with internationalization in mind, this should already be ingrained into your workflows. 

As with colloquialisms, humor can be a tricky thing to translate. However, there’s room for both in localized content. Just make sure you’re using jokes that will actually land with your target audience. Unless humor is integral to your corporate identity and brand voice, it’s ultimately best to keep it to a minimum to make life easier for translators. 

References and resources

You’ll get better results if you provide translators with as many resources and reference points as possible. Writing style guides and terms glossaries are valuable assets that every linguist needs to do their job effectively. These tools will help preserve your tone of voice and ensure consistency across all channels and messaging. Sometimes, however, these references don’t go far enough. As such, it’s important to provide translators with as many supporting notes and comments as possible. 

Transcreation vs. translation

Transcreation, sometimes referred to as creative translation, is another option you can consider when localizing content. While translation involves an almost literal adaptation of content from one language into another, transcreation is a somewhat looser approach. With translation, linguists are tightly bound to the original content. Translators are tasked with ensuring tone, style, and meaning are all properly conveyed, but shouldn’t make any significant changes to the text.

With transcreation, linguists are afforded artistic license and are free to be more creative with output. Transcreators typically work from a brief rather than simple documents to be translated. They’re also less likely to have to ask for permission to perform certain changes or make major additions to a text. 

Technical localization 

Website localization is a process in and of itself. As with other types of localization, you’re adapting the design, content, and functionality of a website to meet the specific needs of a new audience. Just about every aspect needs to be looked at, from how messaging will be displayed on the screen to what payment processing solutions you’ll be using. 

To start the website localization process, you’ll first need to settle on a localization strategy. Market research will inform this, letting you know which languages you need to translate into and granting you a clear picture of cultural norms. More involved research will also give you insights into purchasing habits, preferred payment options, and more. 

You can decide to adopt the waterfall approach to localization, whereby localization itself happens after your website has been created and made live in another language. There’s also continuous localization to consider. Often referred to as Agile localization, this workflow approach runs in tandem with website development, with any update triggering a translation request. 

Software and application localization is its own minefield that needs to be navigated. All manner of visual elements will need to be translated during the process. Along with on-screen text, there are screen titles, link text, section names, and more. 

Formatting and encoding considerations

For both website and software localization, you’ll need to consider formatting differences between languages. Date and time formats aren’t consistent across the globe, while name order conventions also vary. What’s more, language direction itself has several variations. This can have major implications for how text is displayed. 

Encoding is another essential element to successful localization. It’s thanks to encoding that software applications can render text in wildly different languages. There are several accepted standards you can use, with UT5-8 being one of the most common. 

Quality assurance

Robust quality assurance should be a staple of every localization project. While QA should be woven into each step of the process, you’ll ultimately need to assess and amend localized content before it’s ready for the end user. Automated quality assurance checks can be used in some cases, but a non-automated approach will deliver the most reliable results. These checks can include things like linguistic testing, proofreading, and back-translation. 

Linguistic testing

Linguistic testing is particularly important. During testing, spelling and grammar need to be checked, while the syntax and context also need to be considered. Furthermore, translation consistency needs to be guaranteed, while any requirements for special characters and text layout need to be observed. 

Functional testing

Sometimes, the localization process can cause functionality and performance issues. With functional testing, you can ensure a piece of software or an app is working correctly in a target territory. As well as checking a localized product for readiness, functional testing can identify bugs specific to a local environment, giving you plenty of time to resolve them. 

User experience testing 

Sometimes referred to as a usability test, user experience testing lets you ascertain how user-friendly an application actually is. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to usability testing. You can use recruited testers to trial the application and use questionnaires to gather feedback or test with a random pool of users in the real world. A far more flexible approach is to undertake testing remotely. 

Post-localization optimization 

Localization efforts shouldn’t cease once a project brief is realized. Ongoing optimization can ensure your product is as attractive to local users as possible. To determine how well localization has gone, turn to key performance indicators for a guideline. 

Useful KPIs

For a newly localized website, use KPIs like traffic, average time on site, and conversion rates. You can also weigh the bounce rate of localized pages against their non-localized counterparts. General online KPIs can include the click-through rate of a new email campaign or how well your SEO keywords are ranking in a target territory. 

When it comes to customer experience, consider customer satisfaction, helpability, and Net Promoter Score (NPS) metrics when compiling KPIs. More interested in realizing growth objectives? KPIs like active monthly customers, net revenues obtained from localized pages, and customer retention rates are all invaluable. 

Gather feedback from local users 

If you want to excel in a new locale, make sure you’re actively engaging with and listening to users from your target territory. Customer reviews and email correspondence can offer a wealth of insights. However, sometimes it pays to take a more proactive approach. Think about hosting focus groups and using questionnaires to identify pain points that are impacting customer experience. 

Legal and regulatory compliance 

A key aspect of localization testing is ensuring your product is fully compliant with local laws and regulations. Data protection and privacy require special attention. If you’re expanding into a new territory and want to harvest data on local users, this information will typically need to be stored within their native country. While data localization can be costly and complex, it does ensure that data privacy and security are upheld. 

You’ll also need to prioritize protecting your intellectual property. Anywhere you’ll be registering a product, you’ll need to file an application to this. Intellectual property applications can be exhaustive and include many supporting documents. In almost every case, applications will need to be filed in the official language of a respective country, adhering to local regulations and legal requirements. As such, accuracy is of the utmost importance.

Budgeting and resource allocation 

Budgeting for a localization project is rarely easy. Many variables impact the overall cost of localization, including languages you wish to cover, content prioritization, the tools you’ll be using, and more. Per-word rates can be useful, but these are more relevant to conventional translation projects. What’s more, many service providers tend to calculate costs on a per-hour basis when it comes to software localization. 

How to effectively manage localization budgets

Creating a budget is the key to keeping localization costs in check. In order to create one, you’ll need a clear idea of localization goals, the markets you wish to target, and the languages that are spoken there. Additional costs incurred from delays, revisions, and testing will also need to be factored into the equation. 

There are many ways you can save money when localizing software. Content prioritization can yield significant savings, as can reducing the number of version releases and updates. Automation can help streamline the process and save you money, but it’s important to know exactly when to leverage machine translations. Brand messaging calls for the creative touch of a human linguist, while by-the-numbers product documentation can usually be allocated to a machine translation engine. 

Creating concise content is another cost-effective localization strategy. By standardizing formatting and reducing word counts wherever possible, you’ll be spending less on translation and localization services. You can also embrace textless elements and rely more on visuals to inform users. 

Looking for help with localization? 

Localization is the only way forward if you want to grow globally. Don’t have the in-house experience or resources to pull off localization independently? BLEND can help you uncover the consumer insights you need to thrive in new locales, with a host of innovative localization solutions to help you nail down new markets. 

We offer a range of localization services to brands with an eye on global growth, helping you secure multimarket success. Bringing together a worldwide network of professional linguists and advanced automation, BLEND truly offers the best of both worlds. Our single-source localization hub grants you a bird’s-eye view of your projects, while our scalable solutions can be easily customized to meet the most exacting requirements. 

Ready to discover more ways that BLEND can help you? Get in touch with the team today. 

author post

Corinne Sharabi

Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.


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