What Is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. Localization is an important part of every new foreign market entry, because it ensures that the brand speaks the same language as the potential customer.

Although every one of us is unique, there are certain aspects that both unite and separate people into tribes and groups. Geographics, demographics, beliefs, opinions, languages, and experiences are elements that define who we are. Localization is the way to adjust and modify content in a way that resonates well in the target audience.

It is possible to localize almost everything. Although the term localization is often assosiated with software localization, the same principles and processes can be used with other materials as well. Here we have collected some examples of successful localization of different types of items.

Website localization example

Facebook is a very popular social media website. In addition to the clever concept which clearly has demand, part of its success came from early localization. Facebook is also a fine example of power of crowdsourcing -since 2008 different language versions of Facebook site are created with the help of crowdsourcing. Language after language, Facebook has gained a global user population.

The screenshots below show that the website is available in dozens of languages while the overall user experience and brand is kept uniform across different cultures. The localization is clearly visible in the text, but the date formats are also customized. (‘Month Day Year’ in English (US) vs. ‘Jour Mois Année’ in French)

website localization example

Document localization example

IKEA is an international furniture and home decoration brand that started to sell products with catalogs and distance selling in the 1940s. Although its sales have since shifted to department stores and the Internet, catalogs are still an essential part of the IKEA experience.

Homes differ in sizes, styles, and importance in different countries and cultures. This is why IKEA doesn’t use the same catalog version everywhere. In the examples below, the text, currencies, layout, prices, and even products have been localized to meet the customer expectations and needs in the locale. Still, it is easy to see that they are all catalogs of the same brand.

document localization example

Application localization example

Multilizer PDF Translator is a small Windows application that translates documents automatically to dozens of languages. Small applications like this are often quite easy to use. Nonetheless, even the simplest application may lose its full potential without localization. Wrong language selections can prevent people from learning how to use the tool or play the game.

software localization example

Product localization example

Sometimes it is reasonable to even localize the product itself and not just the written material. Here you can see an example from the car industry. Every car has a steering wheel, but it can be located on the left side or on the right side. Likewise, every car must have a speedometer, but it can show miles per hour or kilometers per hour, based on the location.

In this case, the local law regulates the product, but consumer behavior also can guide product development. Is the car a family vehicle or personal transportation? Are there good roads and urban living or uneven roads and natural conditions?

product localization exmple

In all these examples, the versatility of localization is shown. The main goal of any localization process should be adopting the local culture into the international business. Localization can consist of all these elements:

  • Translation of the text from original language to target language
  • Adapting design and layout to fit into translated text
  • Modifying content to fit the tastes, cultural aspects, and consumption habits of other markets
  • Adjusting to local regulations and legal requirements
  • Adapting colors and graphics to target market
  • Converting to local requirements (such as currencies and units of measure)
  • Using proper local formats, e.g. dates, addresses, punctuation, symbols, and phone numbers

The aim of localization is to give a product the look and feel of having been created for the target market and to avoid or minimize local sensitivities.