Friday, 20 July 2012

Website and iMedia Localization Research Update

iMedia Designers are much more aware now of the importance of localization of their interactive products to suit the global electronic market. Localization is the adaptation of an application to suit a culture other than that of the native source. This doesn’t just mean translating the language because a culture can affect the site’s intent, colour, layout, interaction, and graphics ... among other factors.

Let’s focus on this intent of the site.

This relates to the business purpose for the site and will affect how localization is carried out, because different cultures have different ways of realising the business intent. This becomes crucial, of course, for any interactive site that is retail-based, but also has implications for any business intent such as informing, branding, positioning, launching for consumers; but then there is intent for business-to-business sites as well. Here intent relates to how a culture has expectations about the way things are done. Because of the better understanding of localization issues now, it is more common for local designers, programmers and information architects to be involved in localising sites. This might mean that because some countries lag behind in the electronic experience, the local solution might appear at odds with the parent application which might be more mature in electronic experience terms. Definitely food for thought here as it is a bit counter-intuitive but understandable.

Why localize?

London Translation has a short set of bullet points that make interesting reading – needs updating though. But their stats - like customers are four times more likely to purchase something from a site in their own language and customers stay twice as long on sites using their language – make strong points.

Global multinational companies appear to suffer with localization at a different level according to Forrester research, The Right Way to Globalise your Interactive Marketing Programs, Nate Elliott (Dec 2011)

Here, the research suggests that there is conflict between the global marketing team and local marketing teams over the one-size-fits-all approach that the global team touts for financial reasons. Elliott et al say there is another way to localize without it costing too much. Peter O’Neill’s research, also from Forrester, backs this up: Use Field Marketing to Align Marketing Content with International Customer Needs, (March 2012).

In their research paper, A Framework for Designing Usable Localised Business Websites (Vol.2010 IBIMA publishing), Ali Al-Badi and Pam Mayhew recommend that designers apply the following guidelines:
  • Know the target audience – use the framework they recommend otherwise you risk intimidating and offending your potential customers/clients
  • Usability/Accessibility Tools and Guidelines need to be used
  • Culturally Usable Websites are very different from usable cross-cultural websites. The overt and covert cultural factors need to be controlled
  • Target Users Involvement – in all design phases helps create a website that suits them
  • Design Consistency – still vital for culturally adapted sites
  • Website Periodic Maintenance – to keep site current and culturally up-to-date
Do you need to localize your products for your clients? Have you outsourced to specialists for this? We hope this short analysis of some of the current factors will prompt some rethinking if necessary.