A business might have the written content of their website translated to perfection by an expert translator, but it’s rendered meaningless if the site isn’t subjected to a full localisation process. Localisation is a collective of numerous considerations and techniques, although there are three in particular that always warrant a respectable amount of time and effort.
Word count and layout is something that needs meticulous planning before so much as a word is posted on a website. For examples of the problems that can be potentially posed, an English word in Russian could be up to 60% longer, while the same word in an Asian language could be less than half the original width. Page layout thus has to be tailored accordingly – fixed size containers with text in them should never be used, and space must be allowed to expand or contract to comply with the text character count.
Character encoding sounds intricately technical, but there’s a relatively simple concept behind it. It essentially refers to the way characters in a text are stored, represented and translated into bytes by a computer. ISO-8859-1 and UTF-8 are among the most common character encoding standards that exist for different systems, and implementing the right encoding ensures written content is correctly displayed. Errors in doing so will result in notable errors in the text, like capital letters cropping up in the middle of words.
Moving away from the technical aspect into the creative side of things, the significance of colours and images can’t be underestimated in relation to different cultures. A thumbs up gesture may be an indication of friendliness and positivity in the western world, but in some middle eastern countries it actually means ‘up yours’! Similarly with colours, white tends to represent purity where we are in the world, yet it can be indicative of death in other countries.
These are just a smattering of the many factors making up localisation that demand a professional touch. Personally, I feel the overall process of localisation for website translation is the most definitive example of the relationship the translation industry has with the digital world; set only to become deeper as time progresses.