Best Practices on Chinese Web Localization for Multinational Companies

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Multinational companies with web presence struggle between two alternatives, whether to reach their international customers with a standardized global website or a localized one that is designed according to the presence of cross-cultural differences in customers’ online behavior.

Some companies develop a standardized website, while others move beyond globalization by partnering with experienced translators to localized it considering the linguistics, web design and culture.

“Web globalization begins with languages. And any company with serious global aspirations has no choice but to embrace languages,” said John Yunker, co-founder of Byte Level Research and author of The Web Globalization Report Card.

According to Mr. Yunker, “Today, the average global website supports 28 languages.”

His statement doesn’t imply that a website must support 28 languages. Amazon only supports 9 languages (without English). However, in light of recent developments of global brands, every company must develop its language strategy.

Does your company plan to expand in the Chinese market?

If yes, here are three frameworks of web localization:

  1. Content Localization – there must be a general understanding of how the company will localize its website to appeal to the Chinese audience. In content localization, it addresses the equivalency, relevancy, support, navigation, and currency of the site.

Translation companies must consider how these elements are localized:

  • Customer Support – must have basic form or direct customer service 
contact equivalent to the English website.
  • Navigation – must be equivalent to the English website
  • E-commerce Readiness – must have product information, shipping 
details, and shopping cart for e-commerce sites.
  • Policies – must be translated and highly localized to complement China’s 
Internet policies
  • Content Depth – all the sections from the English pages must be translated.
  1. Cultural Localization – cultural localization includes the appropriate colors to be used, cultural symbols, and unique products and services for the Chinese market.

When it comes to colors, the Chinese are sensitive to their meanings and implications.

  • Red – lucky color that expresses joy, happiness, prosperity, and luck
  • Yellow – imperial color of power
  • Green and Blue – symbolizes longevity, harmony, and growth

Concerning cultural symbols, website designers must take note that the Chinese culture is based on Confucian principles of balance and harmony, or the Yin and Yang. Using nature images and harmony is more tuned into the culture.

Chinese culture is also marked with symbols, rituals, and contextual elements. Numbers also play a significant role when it comes to prices. For example, rates of products should have combinations ending in 88 or 98, since these numbers imply the road to prosperity, and avoid using 4 and 7, which is related to death.

  1. Translation Quality – when it comes to quality, the appropriate words, idiomatic equivalence, conceptual equivalence, and vocabulary equivalence are significant for translation efforts. How is the main page localized? How are the subpages or additional pages tuned in with the home page? Translators and multinational companies should have clear answers to these questions. Product names and concepts must be precisely translated with appropriate words that can be easily understood by Chinese customers.
  2. Integration of Social Media Networks – this is essential when it comes to web localization because the bulk of social media users come from Asia, particularly in China.

Famous social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which are widely used for marketing campaigns on the other side of the world are blocked China. That’s why multinational companies must also consider other alternatives, such as Weibo, Renren, and QQ icons and links on their localized websites.

Localization is entirely different from translation. However, most companies think that they bear the same concept. The primary focus of companies is translating the content, overlooking the enormous impact of localizing the whole website, which is intensive and scrupulous but will produce massive results in the long run.