The internet is a vital tool for companies looking to expand into new markets, reach global audiences and increase worldwide sales, but too many businesses try to cut corners in their rush to localise their websites.
It’s not enough to simply translate from English into another language. The content needs to be culturally adapted for the target market. This may involve changing colours and images, converting measurements and currency units and modifying text to suit the people who will be viewing them.
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Even major players make mistakes
More than a third of all internet users are non-native English speakers, but research shows that visitors stay for twice as long if the website is in their own language – which is why it’s so important to take localisation seriously.
We’ve seen many companies make huge mistakes in the dash to get their products and services to overseas customers, which have been costly to them not just financially but in terms of reputation and opportunity too.
Here we look at why many localisation projects are destined to fail.
1. Budget and time constraints
There are some very inexpensive ways to translate a website. Machine translation can be effective if all you want to do is get a vague idea of what words and phrases mean. But simply running your text through Google Translate won’t suffice if you are trying to win new customers from overseas. It doesn’t look professional and you could inadvertently offend someone.
Effective translation and localisation projects aren’t cheap to put into operation, and they need maintaining, so if you’re serious about entering new markets, you’ll need to set aside a big enough budget to achieve your objectives. Before working out your budget for localisation, estimate how much a failed attempt would set you back.
It’s also important to set aside enough time for your localisation project. A rush job could be disastrous. A short delay is always favourable to a quick release that ends up failing.
2. Not enough skilled translators
It can be hard to find skilled translators, particularly in languages that aren’t widely used, but it’s imperative to hire experienced people who have excellent command of your target language, as well as a good knowledge of your particular sector.
You’ll also need competent designers and IT staff. One of the major mistakes companies make is using people who don’t have the right skills for handling localisation projects. Doing it in-house is not always a good idea.
Outsourcing your project to a business with extensive localisation experience can be worthwhile as you’ll be benefiting from the expertise of people who understand your target audience’s language and preferences. Though this may add to your initial outlay, it could save you a lot of money further down the line.
3. Not understanding different cultures
As well as language, you need to take into account colour, images, symbols as well as other visual content for localising your website. Whoever is managing your project needs to be sensitive to the culture of the country or countries you’re investing in.
Although black represents death in many nations, it signifies balance in China, while in India red represents purity.
Symbols shouldn’t be neglected either. For example, the common Western image of a house often used to link to the home page, isn’t relevant in some countries.
4. Lack of clear objectives
It’s often the case that project managers charge in like a bull in a china shop, not knowing what they want to achieve and having unrealistic ambitions.
It’s vital that you have a strategy in place and set targets on what you want to achieve in a set amount of time.
Not planning ahead can have long-term consequences for your business. If everyone is clear on what your goals are, you’ll have a better chance of success.
5. Lack of communication
If one department is taking the lead on implementing localisation, it’s important they develop strong lines of communication with others involved in the process.
For instance, if the marketing team is overseeing the project, they will still need help from the IT department to deal with the technological side of things.
Ineffective communication can lead to mismanagement, poor morale and erosion of trust. If you feel as though the IT department isn’t responding quickly enough to your requests, try not to get frustrated with them as they are a vital part of putting any plans into action and you need to keep them onside.
6. Selecting the wrong technology
Technology plays a big part in making sure projects run efficiently and localisation is cost-effective. All too often this is overlooked, so securing the right technology may be another reason to outsource. To be successful, you need the most up-to-date software program for your specific market.
The internationalisation process is an important part of website localisation. It involves making sure the software being used is fully compatible with the technology of the country you’re expanding in. If it isn’t, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
7. Poor testing
Once the translation and localisation processes are complete, your project will need to be tested thoroughly so you can catch and fix any problems before it goes live.
Functional testing ensures that all parts of the program work correctly, while linguistic testing checks that all translated material is correct for syntax and context. If this isn’t done properly, you run the risk of ending up with a poor quality service.
8. Lack of commitment from senior managers
For your project to be successful, senior management need to be involved from the start and continue that involvement right to the very end. This requires a lot of time and effort, and when they have other issues competing for their attention, devoting time to the project may not be very high on their agenda.
But leaders need to show continuous support to make it clear to staff how important the process is. They also need to rally the team if they face setbacks along the way. If managers aren’t very committed, the rest of the workforce won’t be either.
A well localised website can help your business break into foreign markets, strengthen your brand and even boost conversion rate.
By keeping in mind the target culture, selecting the right technology, getting senior management’s buy-in and using professional linguists you can avoid the common mistakes listed above and get more out of your website.
If you are still drafting your website localisation strategy, read our guide to website localisation to help you plan ahead.