The recipe for superb localization? It’s in your source content (Part 2)

Welcome back to cracking the code to great localization. Last week, we shared with you our tips for your writers. But content isn’t just words. In localization, imagery, layouts, and navigation bear an equal role to penmanship.

Let’s look at some things your design team should consider when crafting the source content.

Use images. But do it with localization in mind

You probably think this one goes to our detriment. Fewer words means fewer things to translate. But we are the first ones to agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. And our job is to make your localization project a success, not a hefty expense.

One point of attention, though. 

An image doesn’t say the same thing across all cultures. Symbolism changes from culture to culture. 

Imagine a picture showing a bunch of friends in a pub, laughing over a pint. To some, it might evoke feelings of and familiarity or friendliness. Post it on next to your Arabic localization, and you’re up to trouble.

Either go for neutral images or ask your creatives to prepare localized versions for all your website versions.

Allow space in your designs

Remember Mary from our previous post? Let’s say she’s indeed a person and not a baby chicken. Let’s say Mary went to the mall to buy a pen.

In German, the above sentence would be:

Mary ging ins Einkaufszentrum, um einen Kugelschreiber zu kaufen.

Mary bought a pen in English with 34 characters and 10 syllables. In German, it took her 64 characters and 18 syllables to get it. That’s almost double the length.

It’s not just German. Many other languages expand up to 30% when translated from English.

Another thing your designers should keep in mind is script direction. The layout and navigation have to work for both left-to-right languages and vice versa. Like Hebrew or Arabic, for instance.

Make sure your designers allow enough space to accommodate these specifics.

A final note: does localization kill your creative flair?

Keeping things easy and simple doesn’t mean being redundant. It means sticking to what’s essential. In fact, most authors will tell you that it’s one of the hardest things to do.

There’s more to creativity than idioms and synonyms. Rhythm, syntax, punctuation — all these elements project personality and a distinctive voice. 

If you really feel that your English lacks that oomph by sticking to these few simple rules, try doing one thing. Write your content in simplified, localization-friendly English first. Then, “translate” it into a spicier, edgier version for your English-speaking market.

Tweaking a localization-ready English into a nuanced version will cost you much less than having to correct dozens of versions localized in other languages.

All the best with your next content assignment.