Before the internet, spreading your business across the globe was nearly an impossible task. But now, this expansion is at every business’s fingertips, no matter how small or large. Right now, I can go online and order a flash frozen pizza handmade from Naples and eat it for dinner in just a few days. And not only can I do it, but I can do it easily.
This is the result of globalization and localization. These are fancy terms for the different ways companies scale their reach to an international scope. They both provide a similar level of expansion, but there are key differences to understand.
Localization is the most custom way to adapt content to different specific regions. Rather than just translating to the appropriate language, localization focuses on ensuring the original intent of the content is maintained and fits within the local customs. Localization ensures that the adaptation of your site, product, content, or resources meets acceptable cultural norms of your different unique targeted audiences.
In a way, globalization is the reverse of localization. Rather than catering content to each unique region, it sets a worldwide standard for your product, site, or content to support multiple languages. It removes the localized code process and allows a more generalized system of reaching global audiences.
Neither! Both have their time and place. Globalization tends to be more efficient. It’s best for companies who are looking to set an international standard for themself while stepping into other markets. However, it doesn’t have the same local customized spice as localization. Localization can help companies to entice particular target audiences with specific styles and content that is specifically made for them to engage with. However, the issue here is you become limited to the localized markets. Therefore, international businesses may lean toward a globalization approach, while local or smaller businesses, with a more focused target audience, may lean toward starting with localization. But, it’s important to keep in mind that in many cases localization is a refining step in the globalization journey, meaning, they often work hand-in-hand.
Self-service and globalization and localization should go hand-in-hand (-in-hand). Designing a successful self-service experience means designing one that brings convenience and ease to all of your target audience’s customer journeys. It also means reducing contact pressures on your support team while deploying preemptive selling techniques. It’s all about providing to the customer before a question arrives, preventing it altogether. And what does that have to do with spreading globally?
Growth is harder than it looks. Companies expand, but not all at once. Many different global companies find that offering support for their products and services on a global scale to many different cultures is hard. This is because expanding to a new culture is more than just making your website available there. All of your site pages need to be translated, images may need to be rendered, contact options are tailored to location, etc. And speaking of contacts, once you spread globally you must find a way to support contacts coming in from across the world.
And that’s where self-service comes in. It allows companies to spread their site to new places with this forward-thinking solution that empowers their customers from around the globe to find answers and resources themselves. And each of these customers can receive these answers and resources tailored just for them in their own native language. But, this can only be done when self-service is designed with globalization and localization in mind. And that is where the challenges come in.
Globalizing or localizing your company’s online presence holds an important value in the future success of your company’s growth, but it presents some complex challenges.
One of the most common challenges is the translation of the user interface. Translating a language is more difficult than just changing the characters and text. When translating, things can get tricky when considering the legibility and readability of the translated words and phrases. During translation, text length can vary as much as 40 to 100 percent, and this text enlargement or reduction can greatly change your web interface. Basically, what looks good in English may not look so great in German and may not even be legible. Especially since words in certain languages, like German, Korean, and many others, are much longer. Also, certain acronyms, slangs, and abbreviations don’t exist in other languages, and therefore, have to be spelled out in full length. Again, this would result in longer text and can alter your site’s design.
Similar to how text can change lengths and size when translated, it can also change orientation. Many language’s characters don’t read left to right, but up and down, or even right to left. Because of this, the design of your site can radically change in translation and become completely ineligible or confusing.
There are a multitude of challenges that arise when adapting images to other regions. To start, any custom images with embedded text on your site have to be individually translated aside from your main site content, leading to more work. But what is most tricky is the cultural differences you may face here. Images, graphics, and colors (which we’ll get to more later) can take on different meanings in different cultures and skew your desired outcome. One image could produce entirely different emotions and reactions from different audiences across the globe. This is especially relevant for images depicting people, hand gestures, and clothing that all vary greatly amongst different parts of the world.
Not only do characters change in translation, but numericals and their formatting do as well. This is most common with things like time, date, price, phone number, measurements, postal code, etc. You have to worry about different time zones (even within America), 12 vs. 24-hour clock, metric or imperial system, currency symbols, the orientation of dates (day, month, and year ordering), and more. This creates a lot of complex variables surrounding what could be very important items on your site. For example, posting that a product is going on sale until a certain date and time could lead to big issues if you are not clear on what that date and time is in different regions.
This is a difficulty that is often overlooked. Cultures process information in different ways. There are two main ways of thinking: holistic and analytic. Western cultures tend to be more analytical and Eastern tend to be more holistic. Analytical thinkers often are influenced by more structured content with similar elements paired together, while holistic thinkers seek a more distraction-free and neutral design.
There is tons of research on the psychology of color and how it can impact your design and the success of your company, however, it is all relative to culture. For example, white is considered pure and used for weddings in America, while in China, red is traditionally used for wedding celebrations. These key differences can make a huge impact on how your content is perceived across different cultures.
Aside from all of the challenges that come with globalizing and localizing successfully, the biggest challenge for most businesses is obtaining the resources they need to do so. Finding the right translator or translation platforms is important and can become costly. Many businesses still rely on entirely manual processes, having developers enter manual code or CMS, expending vast amounts of time and money. Not to mention that with frequent updates and changes within your company, you need an agile system that can quickly evolve as your company does. Luckily, as technology advances, we have the option of auto-translation, which is far more advanced and efficient.
The ability to globalize and localize your business efficiently is a great benefit that self-service can offer your company. Doing it well can bring considerable value to your company, however, it also comes with its challenges. As a rule of thumb, it is best to always keep your global growth in mind when designing to maintain flexibility. To learn more about what you can do to bring your self-service design to life, read about the psychology of color, designing search tools, integrated help, and guided navigation, and some overall best practices in self-service design.
However, expanding your business on a global scale takes careful planning and strategizing beyond the actual site design. Learn how to be the most successful by considering the design challenges covered in this article coupled with the business-related challenges your company may face.
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