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How to prepare for the localisation (translation) of a web site ?

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The web is multicultural and multilingual. In order to sell your products or services, or simply to make yourself known, it is necessary to adapt the site to the target readership.


Translation alone is not enough: certain functional elements need to be adapted to local cultures and languages, hence the term localisation.


The localisation of a web site is only possible if the initial planning of the site has allowed for it, for example by offering alternative date formats. The process of adapting the site to the requirements of localisation is known as globalisation. A sound knowledge of the demands and difficulties of such a project will save you many unpleasant surprises and will simplify your work.


A globalised site must, for example,

  • allow the use of various date formats (long or short, "mm/dd/yy" or "dd/mm/yy"), currencies, time formats (12 or 24-hr clock), addresses (with or without postal codes), etc.
  • allow for a larger volume of text, i.e. a greater number of characters as a result of translation (text increases). Text increases can reach 15 to 30% for a full text, and up to 300% for a single term.


Also, you should bear in mind that

  • Texts contained within images must also be translated. Processing a GIF/JPG file is of course more complicated, time-consuming, and costly than translating a TXT file. Therefore try to avoid, for example, creating titles in GIF/JPG format.
  • dynamic texts (transmitted by the server in response to the site visitor's orders, selections, or questions) must also be translated. The globalisation process thus requires examining how the server generates these texts, and the easiest approach is to maintain a data base of messages in various languages.


However much effort is put into the globalisation stage, the localisation process always holds surprises in store. Therefore, it is highly advisable to complete localisation in one language before moving on to other languages. The first language will serve as a pilot project and, according to the problems encountered, will help find solutions which can be applied to other language versions, thus saving time and money. The pilot language also makes it possible to check the localisation plan with regard to deadlines and costs.


These are general considerations. In reality, individual cases all present their own particularities and complexities.


To find out more, just get in touch with us!


See also Software localisation with Multilizer


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