7 Localization Mistakes To Avoid
We’ve compiled a list of the 7 most common localization mistakes, so you can easily avoid them, and save time and money in the process.
It’s essential for any businesses out there to start thinking about localization early on. If you’re looking to expand your business, it makes perfect sense - as for 94% of the world’s population, English isn’t their first language.
Localizing your software into other languages as well, is a great way to expand, and reach audiences worldwide. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about it as soon as possible, so you can start preparing for the process. Even though you may not be planning to start right away, building your software with localization in mind can help you a great deal later on.
The whole process of localization doesn’t have to be complicated if you’re well prepared. In this article, we’re breaking down 7 most common localization mistakes which can happen along the way - and by being aware of them, you’re well on your way to avoid them.
However, if at any point, you find yourself jumping through hurdles, don’t get discouraged. Even some well-known brands were in that situation.
When Schweppes was launching Schweppes Tonic Water in Italy, it was literally translated to Schweppes Toilet Water. And they’re not the only example. Another famous mistake was by Pepsi when they were launching their product in China. Pepsi's slogan: "Pepsi brings you back to life.” was wrongly translated to "Pepsi brings dead ancestors back from the grave.” And the list goes on, proving that nobody is immune to translation mistakes.
Some of these translation mistakes can be minor, and won’t affect your business - however, others can be quite costly and very damaging to your business. That’s why we’re going through these 7 localization mistakes, so you can ensure smooth localization.
1. Translating the content verbatim
What happened to Schweppes is a great example of why you shouldn’t translate content word-for-word. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) made the exact same mistake with their "Finger-lickin' Good!" slogan. In China, it was literally translated to "Eat Your Fingers!”.
Great examples of why you shouldn’t translate word-for-word, as your message will definitely get lost in translation. To avoid this localization mistake, you should work with professional translators, making sure you’re conveying the exact message you want - in any language.
Relying on machine translation can only get you so far. This is a great way to test a localization software, or your localization workflow. But relying on it to do all of the heavy lifting can result in you making the same mistake as Schweppes or Kentucky Fried Chicken.
2. Disregarding cultural differences
When starting out with localization, your first step should always be getting to know the culture of the region you’re planning to expand to.
Localization is a lot more than just translating the text from one language to another. That’s the definition of translation, and it’s crucial you know the difference between translation and localization before you get started. Localization also takes the technological, cultural and visual aspects into consideration as well.
This means being mindful of the fact that each country has different currencies, could be using different units of measurement, date sequence and more.
Also, you need to think about symbols you’re using in English, and checking if they mean the same thing in other cultures. Something that’s considered positive in English, might be considered offensive in other cultures. Knowing the culture will ensure you get the success you’re aiming for.
3. Disproportional text size
This is one of the mistakes businesses don’t start thinking about until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about localization as early as possible.
One of the common examples is the CTA (call to action) “Buy now”. In English, it takes a certain amount of space, and you’ve probably designed your website and software to fit the exact word. However, in Spanish, this word is translated to “Comprar ahora”. That’s 2x longer than in English, and it’s taking more space.
This can result in the text running off screen, diving into 2 lines and changing the design drastically. If you decide to expand the CTA to fit the new translation, it can affect other elements on the page - and eventually change the entire design of your website or software.
To avoid this, design your products with localization in mind and work with a translator who knows your product well and is mindful of the space they are working with.
4. Embedding text in code
One of the most common localization mistakes is embedding text directly in code. It’s essential to keep your text, such as product names and error messages in external files.
By having text embedded directly in code, you will slow down your localization drastically, as it will take your translator time to read the entire code.
It also becomes extremely difficult to maintain everything. Localization isn’t a one time thing, because as your software changes, you’ll make textual changes that need to be localized. Having your text embedded in code, it will be difficult to keep track of all changes and make sure everything is localized.
5. Poor localization testing
Once your software has been localized, there’s one more thing to do before going live. And that’s proper localization testing.
One of the mistakes companies usually make is simply testing if everything looks good design-wise, but not spending enough time to see if the message their trying to convey has been properly translated.
Delegating this task to employees familiar with the language you’re localizing to, can help you avoid this mistake. They’ll be able to go through the entire system, and make sure that everything’s translated correctly before going live.
6. Not thinking about SEO
For every business owner (and marketer!) ranking well in the search rankings is top priority. If you have a great business, but it’s not showing up on Google, you’ll miss out on a lot of potential customers.
They say that if you want to hide something, the second page of Google is the place to do that. And it’s a good point, as the majority of people won’t scroll beyond the first page. Multiple studies have shown that only 25% of users go to the second page, meaning that 75% of users never leave that first page. That’s why it’s essential you are one of those top 10 results.
If you’re primarily based in the USA, and you’re ranking well for certain keywords, you’ll want to replicate the same results in the language you’re localizing your website to. However, there are a few things to keep in mind here.
Translating and optimizing for the exact same keywords may not bring you the results you’re looking for, because other keywords might be used to better describe your product. That’s why you should do proper keyword research and familiarize yourself with the culture.
For example, the word football, doesn’t have the same meaning in England and in the USA.
Start thinking about SEO, and find the right keywords on time, because this will affect your website’s success in other countries.
7. Thinking of localization as a one-time thing
And lastly, thinking that localization is a one-time thing, is by far one of the most common mistakes out there.
What often happens is that companies localize their website and/or product and forget about the fact that in the near future, they’ll be making changes, they’ll add new features or upgrade some of the existing ones. Once this happens, and the new functionalities are live - they remember that they didn’t localize them.
Localization is a continuous process, and you need to create a localization strategy that your team will follow. This way, you’ll ensure that everything’s running like clockwork, and that there are no delays in your workflow.
Working with a localization platform can help a great deal in these situations, and can save you a lot of time in the long run.
Localization can have great benefits for your website when done right. Reflect on these 7 localization mistakes when starting with the process, as this can save you a lot of time and money in the future.
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