According to Globalization Partners, internationalization involves “enabling the back end of a website to handle different languages, character sets, currencies, submit form data, site search capabilities, etc., and entails understanding what database and content management systems you are using to author, store and publish your site’s content.” Localization, on the other hand, involves “translating and localizing the front end of your website into different languages ensuring all content (text and graphics) is translated in an accurate and culturally correct manner.”[i]
What is the subtle distinction between internationalization and localization services? Internationalization is the designing of a Web site so that it can be easily adapted for many different cultures and locales. It is a process that is generally only performed once usually involves a one-size-fits-all solution that enables a site to be world ready.
Localization, on the other hand, involves more of the adaptation of a Web site for a particular area or culture (as in the case of Argentina). This includes translating the text into Spanish, making sure the design is culturally acceptable in Argentina (e.g., doesn’t feature Hispanic images that will be perceived as stereotypical), and removing references that may not be relevant for Argentina.
Where internationalization is a process that is done only once, localization is performed each time you want to target a particular culture or language set, so you won’t really hire translators until the localization stage in targeting a specific market.
Example of a Great Global Web Site
A quick visit to NIVEA.com and you will see a country list where you can select a local Web site. You can choose from seven different continents. Under each continent, there is a country listing. Country listings are in English, the country’s native language, or both.
Explore. Go through the process slowly click by click. NIVEA gives you an enlightening web-globalization education on how each country’s Web site differs in design to accommodate a market. Use the tour as an example on what you should be considering when translating a Web site to serve an audience in Tanzania, France, or Paraguay, for example.
To learn more about internationalization and localization, read Chapter 15 of “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.”
[i] “Language Globalization Guidebooks,” Globalization Partners International, accessed October 29, 2013 http://www.globalizationpartners.com/services/guide-books.aspx.[Screenshot courtesy: Nivea.com]