Today, when there is a rapid growth in the number of Internet users, there is an urgent need to localize sites. The Internet is currently the main means of buying and selling operations, searching for information, ordering services. In addition, the number of users in non-English speaking countries is increasing. Such users at the end of 2019 accounted for 32 percent of the total number, and this figure is growing every year.
Website localization is usually called its modification, which ensures the availability of the site, allows you to make it culturally appropriate and convenient for any target audience. This is a multi-stage process that requires certain knowledge in the field of culture and linguistics, programming. Any small discrepancy in any of these areas can lead to countless problems in the implementation of the localization project. Most often, superficial knowledge in the field of linguistics and culture leads to the failure of the project. Let’s try to determine the degree of significance of cultural components in the process of modifying and linking sites to the target audience.
Not such an easy task as it seems, is the translation of the site into English or any other language. In this case, many factors are involved.
Does the site need a literal translation of all expressions, metaphors and phrases? Is it reasonable to translate, for example, the phrase everyman for himself in a text aimed at describing a product or company as “everyone and everyone for him”, if the site is being developed for a target audience that is highly collectivistic? Is it possible to have a humorous style of presenting the material on the pages of the site? If relevant, will the audience adequately evaluate it, will they be able to understand it? Very carefully when localizing a site, equivalents of another language are selected. Language variants should not be overlooked when translating text. For example, it is important to take into account on the Arabic site its specific purpose: Yemenis or Egyptians, Iraqis or Tunisians. If the resource is intended for everyone who speaks Arabic, you should make sure that the translation is done in standard modern Arabic.
Taking into account the characteristics of the target audience, the style of presentation of the material should also be chosen. Business personnel need appropriate vocabulary, punctuation and grammar. For a youth and informal audience, simple language is suitable. In England, for example, the language is conventionally subdivided into «Royal English» and «Street English». There is a similar division in other cultures. An incorrectly chosen style of language usually leads to an incorrect interpretation of the meaning of the material presented on the site or to a distorted understanding of the company’s activities.
The choice of the information that needs to be presented on the new site is very important. It is a mistake to think that all information in English should be automatically transferred to the new site. The cultural factor, as well as the social factor, should become decisive in the choice. What kind of audience will read this information — those who prefer written information to understand the concept, or those who rely more on visual images? Or people who are best at taking a concise presentation to understand the main points of what they read? When publishing technical texts, one should consider the best translation option with a minimum of language means.
The images used in the material carry information in the best possible way and give many cultural messages. Pictures and images can equally carry both positive and negative impact on the perception of users. Therefore, when placing illustrations, one must be extremely careful. For example, a tourism-themed site localized for Islamic countries is unlikely to be visited if half-naked girls on the beach or the process of drinking beer in bars, dancing in discos, etc. appear as images there.
Photos should be placed on the site in such a way that their selection leaves a good impression on the target audience. Images on a website tend to attract or repel visitors.
As well as images, symbols represent a certain difficulty in localization. In different cultures, icons with pointers «V» or «OK» have different meanings. The symbols adopted in Western countries do not always coincide in meaning with those in Eastern ones. For example, the image of a pig in a logo can be confusing for Eastern audiences — a pig is considered an unclean animal in the Middle East. In India, the cow is considered sacred. The most common icons are «homepage» (image of a house) and «mailbox» (drawn envelope).
When localizing, it is necessary to take into account the color design of the pages. Color has the same cultural significance as symbols and images. For example, the inhabitants of Japan consider white color mourning. And among the inhabitants of Africa, different colors symbolize certain tribes. People in China welcome everything red. You should try not to choose the wrong color for the respective site.
The success of a resource depends to a large extent on a clear layout design. Sitemaps are very often affected by the need for text translations. A text translated into another language takes up less space than the original. You may need more or less space on the site page. In addition, some languages are read from right to left, such as Arabic. And in Japanese it is customary to read from top to bottom. Another important factor in the success of the site is free access to certain of its pages. Some resources have pages that are available only to a select circle of users. And just as if the elite part of users is happy with this fact, it is unpleasant for the democratic masses.
The text components of the site are its most important content, and a critical approach to their compilation will ensure the undoubted success of the resource. This is of fundamental importance both for the correct display of dates, currencies, units of measurement, and for general perception. For example, what should be highlighted more clearly and revealingly — the product or the company itself? It depends on the user audience. If the target audience is located in places where obligatory observance of subordination is accepted and there are certain requirements and traditions of attitude towards elders, it is better to focus on the company’s management. Interesting information will be the activities of the management, qualifications, connections and practical experience.