Photo by Felipe Fortes on Flickr
What’s the difference between globalization and localization? The meanings seem to be as fluid and changeable as a political candidate’s campaign promises.
In relation to eCommerce software development, globalization, also sometimes called internationalization, refers to preparing one’s software platform to be adaptable to different countries and cultures without extensive re-engineering as your business expands. For example: Enabling your platform to handle non-Western-alphabetic languages, different time and date formats, currencies, sizing and measurement systems, and inoffensive images (you wouldn’t, for example, want to include photos of semi-clothed models for more conservative cultures), differing fonts and layouts, etc. Localization means customizing the user interface for each culture and market including language translation, cultural preferences, use of certain colors, preferred time and date formats, etc. North American pricing is in dollars, for example, while European pricing is in euros except for the nine countries that never adopted it. And Asian pricing comes in a wide variety of currencies.
A good example of a globalized product is the Olympics. There were over 200 countries competing in this summer’s Rio Games, with literally half the world – 3.6 billion – watching on a variety of devices including TVs, computers, tablets and mobile phones. The Games offered translation and localization both for visitors and distant viewers. Today, Japan is preparing to localize for the influx of tourists they will get when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Games. That’ll give them plenty of time to avoid the typical translation signage snafus.
Olympics localization efforts weren’t just for Brazilians and their government; it was for any country who covered the games in the media, social or broadcast.
When you decide to sell your eCommerce products in a new foreign market, that’s globalization. When you translate it into Chinese or Malaysian and customize it for various cultural preferences and tastes, that’s localization.
Globalization example: Apple, everywhere. Localization example, Apple, failed: The European Apple II debut in the early ‘80s. While the keyboard had been properly localized for the Japanese model with allowance for Katakana, Apple failed to include accent marks and special punctuation for the Europeans not required on North American models.
Language translation is the biggest and most time-consuming piece of localization design. It’s not just literal translation but adhering to proper cultural context and post-editing to ensure anything inaccurate or inadvertently offensive has been removed. It’s also important to make sure everything on the website has been properly translated, including banners, menu items and image text.
Deciding to globalize your business doesn’t even have to cross borders, initially: You’ve got plenty of foreign language speakers right here in your own country who Google on phrases like ‘party favors and novelties’ in their own language to find eCommerce websites they can comfortably buy from. If your website is only in your own language it won’t be listed in the search results.
Localizing for your alternative language fellow neighbors is a little less challenging, where they expect pricing in your currency rather than their own, where the time zones won’t be so different, and where the design may be a little more home-culturally based. Later, when you want to take your business overseas, localizing will be less of a project, involving optimizing and tweaking.
But globalize your eCommerce platform first, so you don’t reinvent the wheel!
Yappn is a real-time innovative language services provider that not only knows the difference between globalization and localization, but also the subtle differences between Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. Yapp with us about it further at firstname.lastname@example.org.