Web Localization: Best Practices and Resources

Web Localization

According to the United Nations, nearly 3 billion people around the world had access to the Internet in 2014. As of January 2017, the majority of Internet users (923 million) are located in East Asia, followed by South Asia (585 million) and Africa (362 million). As companies aim to expand to new markets and appeal to consumers across the globe, they must leverage their .com presence to potentially reach anyone who has Internet access.

What are the best practices for companies that want to extend their reach to global consumers via the World Wide Web? Should they invest in a multilingual website strategy, or should they just ensure brand consistency through a standardized approach? What is web localization and what are its best practices?

An Insight into Web Localization

Localization, as defined by The Education Initiative Taskforce of the Localization Industry Association (LISA), entails “taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale (country/region and language) where it will be used and sold.”  In other words, it means taking a product and adapting it to a specific country or region in such a way that its users will interact with it in a completely natural way, as if the product were native. While it is a little easier to picture why a physical product would need to be adapted to fit a different target audience in a different country, imagining that a website would also need to be customized for a specific target audience is less intuitive.

After all, in the era of globalization and open markets, why not reach global Internet customers with English websites and standardized products?

  • English-only Websites are Ineffective

Unfortunately, English-only websites do not appeal to a global audience. Data[1] from Common Sense Advisory, a leading market research firm, have shown that 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language, while 72.4% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when information about it is available in their own language.

  • Translation is not Enough

A simple, word-by-word translation of the content of the website is often not enough. Most websites require transcreation services along with translation services. Transcreation is the process of recreating brand content for multilingual consumption, thus making the necessary adjustments while maintaining the intent and style of message. Depending on the type of web content, localization and transcreation services need to be requested in addition to translation. For example, while a simple translation strategy is suitable for purely transactional content (e.g., user instructions, terms and conditions, etc.), web marketing or promotional material usually require more nuance and are therefore more successful when tailored to the target audience and culturally adapted to appeal to the end user.

Moreover, websites are not just made of text, but also make extensive use of images, multimedia, and interactive features. It is important to carefully study the symbolism of colors, numbers, and preferences for specific cultures and be sensitive to these subtleties.

  • A Cross-cultural Web Design Strategy

User experience research for your target market is key to a successful localization strategy. Users with different cultural contexts have different preferences and perceptions of web elements like multimedia (e.g., images, sounds, and video), website layout, ease of navigation, and user involvement. Thus, creating a multi-cultural interface is not simply a matter of changing the language and adopting time and date formats. It implies making significant changes to cultural markers of a website (i.e., color connotations, layout, images, animation, and sounds).

For example, Indonesian users display a preference for websites with a lot of graphics and interactive features, while Western users tend to prefer simpler, text-based layouts. Red is a popular color in China, as it is associated with luck and prosperity, while the number four is feared (a superstition called tetraphobia, which permeates everyday Chinese life). Product photos featuring a woman in a sleeveless shirt are inappropriate for certain target locales (e.g., the Middle East), while they don’t raise eyebrows elsewhere.

When designing a multicultural website, the UI (user interface) designer needs to carefully study the targeted cultural group and its values, and cultural behaviors need to be reflected in design practices. Ideally, the localization team should work in synergy with the design team, as well as the team located in the target region in order to gain valuable feedback and make sure the content is culturally appropriate.


Website localization practices can expand a company’s reach and scale up global business activity. In order to create the best user experience possible, it is vital that websites for a specific target locale have all the necessary features to feel “natural” to its users. This is necessary to ultimately increase web visitor retention and conversion rates. In order to be able to create the best navigation experience possible and to truly appeal to costumers in a specific target locale, it is important to not just translate the content but also perform localization and transcreation.

Ulatus is a trusted certified company that can help you ensure flawless translation and localization of content, congruent with cultural values and local web design practices, which will successfully position your brand to appeal to local audiences across countries.

[1] Based on a survey of 2,430 web consumers in eight countries, aimed at analyzing how language affected their purchasing behaviors.

This article is written by a professional writer, Ilaria Ghelardoni, associated with Ulatus.  

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