If you are an avid internet user who travels a lot, you must have noticed how websites change their appearance when you access them from one location to another. How exactly does global web design work, and when does localization come into play? Let’s dive in.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite office software: Microsoft. The Microsoft website goes through slight changes when you access it from different locations.
For customers in the USA, the hero image contains Back-to-School adverts. For users in Australia, the ads are about Microsoft 365 and Surface Laptop 3.
Changes become more pronounced when you go to a location where the site is present in another language.
And that is what web localization is based upon, and how it works within the grand scheme of global web design.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
What is Web Localization?
It is a strategic effort and process to create custom digital experiences tailored to individual local markets. It encompasses using local language, culture, symbols, and context to connect with local consumers.
The intent is to make it easy for customers to view and engage with products/services and to use the website in the most convenient way possible.
Why Do You Need to Localize Your Website?
Contrary to popular belief, English is not the lingua franca when it comes to the global online population.
Of the 4.6 billion people who go online every day, more than 854 million originate from China and approximately 560 million from India. The United States ranks at number three in terms of active Internet users with slightly more than 313 million users. Therefore, to assume that somebody from a village in remote China can experience your website the same way a tech exec from NY is just plain wrong.
Modern businesses understand that to create meaningful and lasting connections with your consumers, talking to them in their language – on more levels than one – is crucial.
Let’s look at these stats:
- More than 50% of all Google queries are in languages other than English
- Almost 40% of Internet users refuse to buy from websites that are not in their native language.
- 65% of people who understand English prefer to visit websites in their local tongue.
- 75% of online buyers are more likely to revisit a website if the after-sale service is in their local language.
- A business stands to lose 40% of its potential market if its online store isn’t localized.
But, Is Language The Only Thing In Localization?
Because it is the most prominent one, for many, language is the only area that needs attention when you are creating a localization strategy.
Fortunately, this process is more nuanced. It’s not just translating your favorite recipe for 4th of July apple pie for the local website – it’s creating a website that swaps the 4th of July holiday for Eid-ul-Fitr and shows you the local maps to get the tastiest Ramadan delights.
Here, we are going to show you 8 easy but effective ways to create custom web design experiences that’ll excite your local consumers.
1. Local Language
Let’s take care of the most major part first. Your local website needs to be in the local language. For that:
- You can rely on the local staff. But you’ll need to keep in mind factors such as their education level, familiarity with the content, and ability to translate various areas of the website (legal, service, tech descriptions). You’ll also need to worry about piling more work on them or they being unable to juggle the extra workload.
- You can hire an in-house team. For businesses that have comfortable budgets, this sounds like the best option. The only con: what will the team do once all website/app work is done and no major translation work is needed?
- Hire freelancers. This is probably the best way to go, at least for the initial stages. You can hire 3-4 translation experts and a project manager to take care of the entire translation work. You can even go back to these professionals as and when needed.
To ensure that your brand doesn’t lose its luster in translation, make language change a critical part of the web development process from day one.
2. Local Imagery
Localizing your website, as obvious from the example of Microsoft we shared above, includes graphical content, too. This includes everything from logo design to video content, and from social media images to PPC ads.
If you are creating a localized restaurant logo, for example, for your global food chain, there are few ways to approach it.
For instance, you can change the name to suit the local language. Coca-Cola changed its name to ‘Delicious, Able to Enjoy’ for its market in China. It even used Chinese characters for the name change for the most impact. But such a huge change was balanced by using the font style and color that is so uniquely its own and recognized worldwide.
You can also keep the original name, but use the local language script to connect to the audience on a more intimate level.
Apart from logo design, using localized imagery consists of using local models in your ads, local landmarks, and localized drawings and sketches wherever needed. This attention to detail endears a brand to the audience and allows people to start looking at the brand as a local business.
3. Localized Content
This is where you can understand the difference between creating original content that matches the local tone, culture and language, and simply translating words of your flagship website for the local one.
If you do the latter, the effect is garbled content, formatting errors, layout mistakes, and at its worst, laughable translations.
The former approach is more professional, respectful, and authentic. Here you are not treating your foreign consumers as second-class citizens by imposing on them an experience that really isn’t their own. Instead, you have created a digital space for them that speaks their language, understands their preferences, and delivers them a service that fulfills their needs.
Localized content is something that will understand the difference between chips and crisps when going from the USA to the UK. It is what allows you to understand that an informal tone that is the norm in America has no place in the formal culture of Japan.
When you create localized content, it results in better website engagement, targeted relevance, increased inquiries, and higher conversions.
4. Local Design Cues
Matching your website design to reflect local culture is another important aspect of localizing a website in global web design. The colors and meanings we associate with them differ from one culture to the next. In Indian culture, for example, white is associated with widowhood, sorrow, and grief. In Western culture, women wear white bridal dresses as a sign of celebration, elegance, purity, and new beginnings.
Therefore, when designing the interface of your website, pay particular attention to visual cues that have cultural relevance.
The layout is another important area where you need to localize the right-to-left or left-to-right placement of text and other content depending on the culture you are catering to. Most languages are read from left to right but for RTL cultures, place your most prime products starting from the right as that’s where most people from that culture will look when browsing the site.
5. Localized Culture
To let the local culture shine on your brand website, thorough research is a must. While you need to learn that culture’s feelings about your brand colors and your brand tone – and adjust them accordingly – it includes a lot more.
You need to learn that country’s cultural calendar. Days and dates when major celebrations, holidays, and events occur. Also, the date and time format that’s the norm there. Some cultures use a 12-hour format while others prefer displaying time in 24-hour slots. Then there are weekly holidays. In almost all Western countries, official weekly offs are Saturday and Sunday but in the Middle East, businesses are off on Fridays and Sundays.
Then there are rules about how to address people. Some cultures use the family name while in others that’s too formal and creates a sense of pretentiousness and detachment. Therefore, the more you learn about the culture you are trying to penetrate, the more accurate and free-flowing your communication can be with its locals.
And perhaps now you can see why it helps to create a unique localized website with global web design from scratch than to simply translate and provide your users a subpar experience.
6. Local Pricing
This one is crucial but also much easier to accomplish than many other tasks on this list.
Understanding the local currency symbols is easy to learn and easy to implement. Few areas where you need to pay attention is that in some countries the currency symbol comes before the price i.e., $3 while in others it comes after, e.g. €10.
You also need to format price symbols keeping in mind that many countries use the dollar symbol but the price may not be in US dollars. Australia and Canada are some ready examples. Therefore, when pricing your products, ensure that you have used the correct currency sign. Using acronyms such as USD (US Dollars), AUD (Australian Dollars), and CAD (Canadian Dollars) can help.
7. Local Maps
Businesses that have their physical outlets in multiple locations often include corresponding maps to help people find their way to the store. It’s quickly becoming a norm in all consumer markets – whether America or Nepal.
Consulting a map is much easier than remembering the physical address for most people. You can localize it further by changing the map’s default language setting so people can view it in the languages they prefer.
See this example by Google Maps.
The map, its language, and all of the required information are available in Japanese to create an authentic local experience. You can also assign regional codes to relevant maps so the map application you are using behaves according to the norms and the laws of the region you’ve set it to.
8. Localized SEO
After you have done all this hard work, wouldn’t it be a shame if people can’t find you online? To ensure that your name pops up on the top of SERPs when people look for the keywords you are targeting, a localized SEO strategy within global web design comes into play.
It is a strategic effort to target keywords and create content that improves the site’s visibility when people look for businesses near them. You know those top results that pop up when you search for anything with a ‘near me’ suffix? That is because of effective local SEO.
These results are geo-centric. If you change your location, the results will change to show you businesses that are more local to you, more physically near.
Some easy ways you can add the local in your localized SEO:
- Optimize your metadata.
- Make sure that each of your business locations has a separate web page to offer the most relevant content (store timings, team availability, products/services offered).
- Go to Google My Business and claim your business there.
- Make sure you are present on all local business listings (digital and otherwise).
- Optimize your voice search.
- Entice and encourage customers to leave you reviews.
While implementing these tips will help you jump-start your local SEO strategy, creating one from scratch that takes all areas of your business into account requires more time, money, and effort. To give you a glimpse here is a great article on the subject by people at Ahrefs, the local-SEO experts.
Now that you know what goes into creating a unique global web design that caters to the local audience, start working on one right now. The world is getting more interconnected by the minute and if you aren’t ready to give your audience a first-rate local experience, your competitor certainly will.