People and flags

If you are planning on translating your website, it is important to understand the differences between Translation and Localization. Translation is all about crossing the language barrier, whereas localization is about crossing the cultural barrier.

Most people are familiar with the concept of translating their website. You take your existing content and convert it to the closest possible equivalent in another language. Sounds simple, but if you really want to connect with your customers, and build up your brand name, there is a lot more to the whole process.

Localization is about adapting your content’s “message” to make it more meaningful to a foreign market. For any content to be effective it has to resonate with prospective customers. Content needs to speak to customers not only in their language, but also in a voice they understand.

To do this properly, the person who does the translation would need to be fluent in the language he wants to translate into and also be familiar with it’s culture.

Localization is a particular way of using language that reflects the experiences, values, and sentiments shared within a cultural group. It’s an experience of language that is often felt rather than structurally perceived.

How to Localize effectively

Using professional translators who speak the native language is definitely the best solution but even then there can still be problems. A professional translator may well be able to speak in the voice of your customers but may not be familiar with the specific terms used within a certain industry.

Say for example you have a business that sells surfboards. Is a professional translator who is 60 years old going to be able to communicate with a mostly young audience in a voice that is familiar to them? Probably not. So what is the best way to overcome the localization problem?

Determine which markets and content are locality critical

World Map

Not all foreign markets require the same degree of localization. For example there are many industries where the majority of the population speak English in addition to their domestic language. Localization may not be as critical in these regions as in other countries such as China where only a small fraction of the population speak English.

Similarly, much of your content may not need to be localized. Content that is descriptive, technical, instructional, etc depends more on readability than the ability to resonate with your audience. By determining which markets and content are really in need of localization, costs can be kept to a minimum and a lot of time saved.

Image Localization

When localizing your website, don’t forget about your images. You should try to use images that are culturally appropriate and sensitive. Doing this well will boost your company’s chances of connecting with those visiting your website and achieve a healthy relationship with potential customers.

Zinga banner 


The image above is a good example of good image localization. Zynga Japan, the company behind Farmville and Cityville, incorporates the Japanese flag into its homepage banner. The image has been effectively localized for a Japanese audience.

Localization examples

Dates: Day, Month and Year formats vary a lot between Countries. You can find the correct format to use here 

Time: 12-hour vs. 24-hour time. Preference varies country by Country. One good way of finding out is to use the standard clock setting in Microsoft Windows installations: 

Microsoft Time Map 

Color: Avoid local color sensitivities.
Take France, for example, where yellow signifies jealously, betrayal, weakness, and contradiction. In the 10th century, the French painted the doors of traitors and criminals yellow. And in Germany, yellow symbolizes jealousy.

Currency: Pay attention to conversions and formats. Number formats vary around the world and you will need to consider the preferences of your new international users. In the US and Canada for example a comma is used as a separator, while in the UK and Europe a full stop is preferred.
$1,234,567.89USD versus £1.234.567,89 GBP. You can find the currency preferences for all countries here.
Phone Numbers: Formats are different around the world.

National Holidays: Holidays are country and region specific. In the US a store may hold a thanksgiving sale but the same shop in the UK may hold a Guy Fawkes sale instead.
.Geographic Examples: Keep it relevant for your audience.


Neno Translate

At Neno Translate we understand the need for localization as well as translation. When you order professional translations from us we include a feature that that lets you add notes for the translators:

Neno Translate


By using this feature it is possible to highlight industry terms that may need special attention, and give the translator an idea of your target audience and what you are trying to achieve. This and following the tips above will help to make sure that your website is properly localized and translated.