How to Design Local-Culturalized Versions of Your Website

by Florian Auckenthaler
24th May, 2022

How to design local-culturalized versions of your website

In today's world, reaching a global audience is easier than ever before. Many companies are eager to take their websites global and compete in larger markets to gain more customers from various parts of the world. So, are there any keys that can open the doors of these larger markets? The answer is "yes", and the name of that key is "localization". Adapting your website for a new target audience and creating a cross-cultural web design is what counts when going global.

Let's focus on the main aspects related to web design and find out how we can open the doors of new opportunities with the help of globalized websites.

The concepts of Localization, Globalization, and Transcreation in cross-cultural web design

Before diving deeper into the world of cross-cultural web design, it’s better to discover what concepts are related to it.

We can note that globalization is linked with localization. Globalization refers to a product that has been enabled at a technical level for localization. The latter is the process to facilitate globalization by addressing linguistic and cultural barriers. Accordingly, localization is the means to achieve globalization.

To localize the website, we have to take into consideration the culture of each target audience. So, instead of translating the website content, it is more effective to transcreate it, adapting it from one language to another with the existing style, tone, and intent. When going global both verbal and non-verbal messages are transcreated to the language that the target audience speaks. First, we deal with the texts, then nonverbal messages like pictures, music, sound effects, textual elements, layouts, colors of the website, and the font.

More verbose languages and their translations

Did you know that English is one of the less verbose languages in the world? But how is this information related to my cross-cultural web design? - You may ask. The thing is that thinking only in English during the creation of websites may cause some additional work when you attempt to make it multilingual later. When we consider the text length and word count, English is less verbose than German, for instance.  So, you should plan up to 40% text expansion when translating the content from English to German.

Below you can have a look at the same website but created for various audiences - Germany and the United Kingdom.

As you can see the German words consist of more characters and require more space for web design:

Wir verschaffen Menschen welweit gleichberechtigt Zugang zu Finanzdienstleistungen - 82 characters, 8 words

We're committed to expanding access to people without financial services - 72 characters, 10 words

Now, you may think that designing for verbose languages is the most difficult part of website localization. Then, try to adapt the layout to a small screen and make the website mobile-friendly in both English and German. The more verbose texts we have, the more difficult it is to adapt the layout. Accordingly, keeping in mind all the languages from the very beginning will save your time and efforts when you go global later.

Don’t translate but localize

For a web design with cross-cultural audiences speaking different languages, there are two adaptation approaches:

Translation - The change of the language. The look and the feel of the design stay the same.

Localization - Changing the design and texts of the website to make it culturally relevant to the target audience.

Below you can find the examples of 2 types of adaptation:

As we can see one of the popular learning platforms Moodle uses the first type of adaptation. The texts are simply translated into several languages, including German, Spanish, and French. However, in the next example you can see a localized website with a change of design, photos, and texts:

At first glance, we can never guess that these two websites are just localized versions of the same company. Everything is different - the layout, icons, texts, navigation. That’s mostly because the web designers paid attention to the cultural peculiarities of each target market and adapted the website to the needs and preferences of the audiences.

Flexible layout and design

When creating a layout for multilingual websites keep in mind that languages can be written LTR (left-to-right) and RTL (right-to-left). When we change the website from LTR to RTL the layouts flip upside down.

Let's have a look at the English and Arabic versions of the same website:

English is an LTR language. When the company localized the website for the Arabic audience, they moved from an LTR to RTL language. That resulted in a changed layout and design. Even the website colors and pictures have been changed to adapt to the culture of the target audience.

It is usually recommended to use building blocks for websites because they'll make it easier to switch the layout from LTR to RTL.

Do Cultural research before starting to design

Reading just one or two articles about cross-cultural web design will not be enough if you want to succeed in foreign markets. Delving deeper into the cultural differences and implementing them in your design is of utmost importance. That’s because common sayings, color meanings, symbols, and their interpretations are different across cultures.

Check out cultural differences across cultures for more information.

Create local personas

After thorough research on the cultural peculiarities of your target audience, you can create local personas to make the design process faster.

Local personas are helpful when designing for the audience of various cultures because they put potential users' cultural characteristics in front of you during the design process.

They will act as stand-ins for your real users and help you make decisions about web design, functionality, and marketing making it easier to communicate the behaviors, goals, needs, wants, and frustrations.

As you see, you need to consider different aspects when creating a localized version of the website. Paying attention to cultural differences and including them in the localized versions of the website will only tell about your professionalism.

However, you shouldn’t worry if you’re still confused and don’t know how to start localizing your website. At DesigningIT, we will help you with this task!

Contact us, and let’s design a localized website that will make it easier for you to reach your business goals.

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