Website Localization 101: the Right Questions to Ask and the Steps to Take

Website Localization

The concept of globalization was popularized by Thomas L. Friedman, who defined it as the international system that replaced the Cold War system. According to his view, globalization is not just a phenomenon or a passing trend, but the new world order made possible by the interplay of technology, information, and global trade. As globalization in the 21st century has accelerated, it has had a big impact on business organization and business practices like never before. Concepts like outsourcing of competencies and jobs, global supply chain, and globalization strategies have disrupted business activities and norms.

A company “going global” is a significant undertaking that requires careful analysis and planning. Gaining an in-depth understanding of target locales, local competition, and local regulations is key to driving international growth and to successfully launching in a new market. Localization practices are an essential component of the growth process. The general term “localization” refers to the adaptation of content for target markets. Website localization is an integral component of a general localization strategy. Managing a full-scale website localization project is no easy task, and it requires excellent market research, excellent team work, as well as a sizeable investment.

What are the Steps Your Company Needs to Take Toward Website Localization?  And What are the Questions You Should Ask before Embarking on the Journey?

1. Investment Analysis

The first step is performing a sound analysis of which markets are likely to bring more revenue. The questions to ask initially are the following:

Is there an Interest for this Specific Product/Service in this Specific Market?  Can Local Buyers Afford the Product/Service? What is the State of Local Competition? What are the Locals’ Buying Preferences?

Once a demand for a specific product/service has been identified and the above questions have been answered, it is important to research local legislation and cultural taboos that might get in the way. Complying with local legislation is imperative, as well as adapting to local cultural norms. This will help your company avoid fines and cultural faux pas.

There could be complications regarding data protection. For example, Russian laws require all personal data to be stored in databases located within the country. If that is requirement is not met, Russian authorities could ban the website. Regulations surrounding marketing campaigns can be tricky as well. Canada, for example, has anti-spam laws meant to protect consumers. If your company is planning on a massive online marketing campaign in Canada, you should do in-depth legal research beforehand.

2. Define the Dimensions of the Localization Project

Once you have defined the target regions and have researched them thoroughly, you should define the timeline and the scope of project for all parties. Your translators need to know how many words they have to translate, and developers how many pages they have to code. Your desired timeline needs to take into account all stakeholders consider the linkages between time, cost and quality. Technology and automation can significantly speed up process, but implementation procedures need to be factored in the overall schedule. You have to keep in mind that an overly optimistic timeline can compromise quality, as well as cost. Usually, it is advisable to set a tentative launch date and work backwards to finalize a detailed balanced plan.

3. Internationalization of the Website

Once you’ve defined the potential markets and the scope of work, you need to internationalize the website. Basically, internationalization prepares your website for localization, in such a way that it will be easier to make changes when you localize it for a specific region afterwards. This stage is done by programmers behind the scenes, working on the code and the website design. Unicode has become the industry standard, and it supports almost all languages. Programmers work in synergy with translators. The former divide the source code into separate strings, which will then be sent to the translators for accurate translation. The content will then need to be separated from the code and stored.

This stage of internationalization is crucial to set the right foundations for the localization project. Designing the website with a flexible layout will be key for the next phase, as leaving extra space for extra words will allow for proper localization into other languages. For example, English words and sentences are much shorter than their equivalent in French or Italian. Also, making sure that all versions of the website are optimized for mobile access is key, as consumers nowadays are more likely to access a website from a mobile device rather than a desktop.

4. Translation of Content

Accurate translation is of key importance, and you need to have a team of excellent translators who understand their audience. This often means hiring native translators, with in-depth knowledge of the target region’s culture and customs. Translation management software is a helpful tool to help organize tasks and keep track of the progress made. Some translation management software provide collaboration features that ease the team work and also provide translators with notes and screenshots to give them a better understanding of the context of what they need to translate.


In the era of globalization and global business operations, the right localization strategy could mean the difference between market growth and market failure. As more and more consumers make use of the World Wide Web to make their purchasing decisions, their preference is for websites that speak to them in their native tongues and that “feel local”, localizing websites is the best way to reach a global audience of consumers.

Managing a full-scale website localization project is no easy task, but with the help of Ulatus’ excellent team of translators and localization experts, you can successfully appeal to local consumers and drive growth in foreign markets.

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

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