0

Localization

We live in a global world. I hear it over and over, but what does that mean? Specifically, for content creators: what does it mean to live in a global world?

Among other things, it means that your target audience may look, sound, and even think differently than it used to. And I don’t just mean they need your website translated into another language.

Take for example, a hospital in Massachusetts. They used to cater to a predominantly white, English-speaking population. Now they have a fairly large Hispanic population. What does this mean they need to change?

  • Level One: translate the website to Spanish
  • Level Two: consider the needs of the population beyond language. Do they understand healthcare in the same way? Do they need different resources, different images, or different explanations?
  • Level Three: think about the culture. Do they look for the same health-related things that the old population did? Are they looking for things the hospital is capable of providing, such as a separate portal or more in-person opportunities for communication rather than phone?
  • Level Four: go to the bigger picture. What might they need from a higher level, beyond what the hospital can control? (i.e. is the US health system’s requirements supporting them)

While Level Four is out of scope (as they say), there’s a lot more we can do beyond Level One. But many organizations struggle to get to Step Two. For me, I often wondered “isn’t that just separate but equal? Shouldn’t we focus on translation, but provide the same content?”

Mind mind was changed by the Cosmonautics Museum in Moscow, when I saw four paragraphs of description in Russian, followed by a single paragraph in English. A bit indignant at how I was being shortchanged, asked my Russian-speaking friend to tell me what I was missing. But what I was missing was actually a lot of details about Russian people I had never heard of and didn’t particularly care about.

Cosmonauts translation

Was the translator merely lazy, and cut all but the highlights for the American tourists? It’s possible. But I realized in that moment that as an American tourist they had given me the exact to-the-point style information I wanted. This is (whether intentional or not) localization.

Don’t all of our audiences deserve intentional localization, accounting for how they expect information to be provided, and what they want to know?

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *