Website Personalization Across Cultures – 8 Questions to Ask

It’s a fact that the use of the internet is growing worldwide and users are increasingly from countries where the native language is not English. Therefore, marketers wishing to access the global marketplace must understand the importance of localizing their websites. Website localization is a multi-layered process that needs not just technical expertise but also linguistic and cultural knowledge. Here are eight questions to ask in order to fit your website to the target culture.

1. Does Everything Translate?

Some words, sayings, phrases, and metaphors in your English content may not fit well with the target culture if translated literally. Let’s consider the phrase “stand out in a crowd.” This might be not be suitable to be read by individuals belonging to a highly collectivist culture. Does your website content use humor? If so, will the target culture appreciate it or even understand it? Localized alternatives should always be used.

2. Are There Cultural Variants?

Let’s use Arabic as an example. If you want to cover all bases and target all Arabic speakers then the language to use is what’s known as Modern Standard Arabic. However, if you want to target specific Arabic countries such as Egypt or Tunisia, then you must give consideration to any colloquial variants in the Arabic that they speak.

3. What is the Target Audience?

The style of the language should match up with the target audience. If you are selling a service to foreign business personnel, the vocabulary, grammar and punctuation should be more formal to reflect this. On the other hand, if your target audience is youth oriented or informal then a more relaxed style of language would be better.

4. How Does Your Target Audience Understand Concepts?

Does your target culture rely on information-rich writing to fully understand a concept or product or is it a culture that relies more on images to grasp ideas? In the latter case, if your English language website uses a lot of technical terms, then work on ways to bring these concepts across to your target culture with minimum use of words.

5. Do Your Images Fit the Culture?

Pictures or images may have certain cultural negative connotations that may repel viewers. An obvious example might be advertising travel services in a Muslim country using images of bikini-clad women on a beach. Also, when including photographs of your personnel, a shot of the CEO sitting behind a desk will go over well for a seniority respecting society. However, for a more egalitarian culture, it would be better to show the CEO mixing informally with his staff.

6. Do Your Symbols Fit the Culture?

Just as with pictures, symbols can also cause problems in localization. For instance, logos using fingers such a V-sign or an OK sign may mean different things to different cultures. The use of animals as symbols can also cause problems. For example, cows are considered sacred in India and pigs are viewed as unclean in the Middle East.

7. Are you Marketing the Right Color?

Colors need to be analyzed as they can be loaded with cultural meanings. For example, the Japanese associate the color white with mourning, while the Chinese regard the color red as meaning something auspicious. And, in Africa certain colors represent specific tribes.

8. Have you Thought About Website Navigation?

The translation of your website may affect your layout. Script in another language may mean your pages need more room or less room. And, some languages, such as Arabic, read from right to left, and others, such as Chinese and Japanese, read from top to bottom. Access to certain pages is another factor to consider. Cultures that are highly hierarchical may view a site positively if a page is “member only,” whereas a more egalitarian society may find it annoying.

Culture Affects Everything

The impact of culture on website localization is huge. Because of the number of variables that need to be considered, website designers need to work with someone who understands the culture of the targeted country. The global reach of the internet will continue to expand, and companies involved in the internationalization of their businesses must engage in effective cultural analysis. For more information on how localize can help you with your website localization projects please contact us.

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