Language barriers: How we localize UX content in Asia Pacific Region

The APAC region is home to 60% of the world’s population with a growing digital market at an incredible pace, giving great opportunities for global businesses to enter. However, when penetrating a culturally diverse market like APAC, one thing that enterprises should be aware of is the language barrier. APAC is home to more than 3200 languages and dialects, not to mention vibrant traditions and historic cultures. Given that, enterprises need to find ways to overcome these barriers, in which localization is a must. For example, when deciding to build a new website or application for this market, they should localize the UX content to stick with the local culture and languages.

So, what is UX content? Why should UX content and localization go hand in hand? What elements in UX Design can localize? And, how to localize UX content in the Asia Pacific Region? Let’s discover through this article!

UX content consists of text, photos, graphics, and media within a website or application. It is the responsibility of UX/UI designers to arrange the content to make it more accessible, usable, and sensible for users.

On the other hand, localization is adapting the content according to specific target regions. It can be the adaptation of texts, graphic assets, layouts, or any content displayed on the platform. Localization is vital since it is a driving force in multilingual marketing. Localizing content personalizes users’ experience with your content, helping them connect, relate, and resonate with a product.

There are many examples of good localized content from top companies, one of which is Netflix. They localize their content to global audiences through dubbing, subtitling, and captioning. The workforce taking these roles is mostly local freelancers, making it possible to optimize the localization process on Netflix’s streaming platforms. Besides, Netflix will recommend different selections to their users, depending on the popularity level of movies in the user’s location. Given that, the user experience on Netflix is well-customized and personalized.

Prior studies also proved the effectiveness of localization efforts on business performance. According to Nimdzi Insights:

  • UX localization helps increase 100–400% of companies’ local sales.
  • 70% of customers report they are hesitant to spend without a localized experience through online storefronts.
  • 90% report they would be more likely to purchase a product or service localized for their market.
  • Localizing into 10 languages helps companies reach 90% of online customers in the world.

Localization is often oversimplified to mean mere translation, but actually, it is much more extensive. The translation is simply the process of converting text to another language but still maintaining meaning and context. On the other hand, localization requires UX designers to align and resonate with a digital product according to the pain points of your target audiences to provide the best customer experience.

In general, some elements that UX/UI Designers can make changes when localizing UX content include:

  • Fonts: When localizing your UX, you will want to choose a font that can support multiple languages, not only with different characters but with spacing requirements as well. Many Asia Pacific countries have unique typography such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Therefore, thorough research into popular fonts in certain countries is necessary.
  • Format: Although most writings are currently left-to-right, some countries still follow the right-to-left format. For example, we have Dhivehi/Maldivian, a right-to-left writing language used in the Maldives. Designers should notice this since flipping the language direction might impact the entire navigation and layout of the UX content.
  • Images: If you use images or photos in your UX, remember to tailor your image to the country’s culture. The appearance of specific locales or local people on your interface makes it more approachable and touching to your target audiences.

The localization process contains certain challenges that hinder business efforts. Keep this in mind and look for strategies to overcome it!

Failure to translate the content

There are numerous potential risks that businesses might face when translating their content from one language to another. A language is not only about words, but it also contains the culture of its country. Regarding linguistic aspects, it’s expected that we have different words with similar meanings, however, they are used in other contexts. For example, we have “friend” and “buddy”, whose meanings are the same in English. However, while “friend” is neutral and can be used both formally and informally, “buddy” is only used in informal contexts.

Therefore, be aware of the context and tone, and mood of your chosen words when localizing your content. Choosing unsuitable words for your localized product versions might cause a dissatisfying experience for your users.

Character limits

The translation process from the original text to other languages might expand the text length. This might cause some trouble to your design and shorter solutions, which are not the best to optimize user experience, need to be considered. To solve the issue, the collaboration between UX/UI experts and linguists might be best to develop the best digital product possible.

The process requires lots of time and internal resources

To fulfill the localization process, you need to spend your resources on research, product customization, and testing. Since each stage is essential to ensure the quality of your released product, remember not to rush entering the new market and cut corners on the process. Some businesses did and their efforts only resulted in lower-quality outcomes. The study from the Content Marketing Institute revealed that brands distributing poor localized content are 40% less likely to achieve their target sales.

1. Build a diverse team

When you decide to expand your business into the Asia Pacific Region, building a diverse team will be beneficial. Eastern teammates with deep knowledge and experience in the local culture can help your customized UX content be more appealing to the users.

2. Conduct ethnographic research

Ethnographic research allows you to understand the culture of the Asia Pacific market. In addition, you can deepen your knowledge of the users’ motivations, or their pain points. There are various ways for you to implement ethnographic studies, including:

  • Gather reports about the culture.
  • Meet your users directly and experience local cultures.
  • Experience their online products.

3. Utilize the Icons in the design

Over time, icons become more and more popular around the world. Specific icons represent the same meanings in different countries, no matter the language. This is because icons are easily recognizable and help simplify navigation for a simple and seamless user experience.

Employing icons for elements whenever possible, instead of written labels, will reduce not only the amount of translation but also the number of customized redesigning elements when localizing.

4. Outsourcing

Sometimes, it might be difficult for companies to find enough human resources, or the workflow to localize is too complicated. Utilizing the expertise of UX professionals, such as UX design agencies is a suitable attempt. An agency with long-term experience and deep expertise in language, and culture will help ease your workflow and make your localization effort successful.

Expanding into the Asia Pacific marketplace can be exceptionally challenging for businesses due to language barriers and other potential cultural issues. Approaching the local users effectively requires not only time and resources but thorough cultural awareness of the new market. A well-prepared localization strategy that considers all of the above elements into account, will bring a greater chance of success for businesses.

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