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What is localization testing? Learn why it is essential to the success of your multilingual website

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If multilingual websites were made in a factory, localization testing would play an important function in your assembly line. It’s part of your very own quality assurance process, performed to ensure your localization efforts have worked out as you intended.

Before you launch, you can check that the localized version of your website shows up how you want it to, where you want it to. This software testing process confirms your website content has been translated correctly and gives you confidence that your fonts, buttons, and the rest of your user interface (UI) looks how it’s supposed to.

Taking time to verify your multilingual site hits the mark means you won’t have any nasty surprises when it’s out in the wild. This is important because it saves you money (with less time spent fixing problems later down the line) and avoids unnecessary risks to your brand’s reputation. 

All the while, you are increasing your chances of engaging well with your target customers and hitting revenue targets as you expand into your new market.

Understanding the importance of localization

Localization is all about creating a good experience for your users and, ultimately, it can affect the success of your business. Well-delivered localization efforts demonstrate that you understand what users want, based on their locality.

An example of this can be seen with Apple’s website and the difference between its homepage for an American or Singaporean audience.

differences between the Apple website in the US and Singapore

Both lead with the latest iPhone. The US version comments on it being a leap year, whereas the Singaporean version references a film shot with the iPhone model and caters to an audience who are anticipating Lunar New Year celebrations.

Multilingual sites go hand-in-hand with localization, helping you expand into foreign markets. By researching your target market, you should have a good understanding of both language and culture. You can reflect this throughout your website and in key steps for customer conversion using Weglot, which supports a localized experience all along the customer journey.

Follow localization best practices, starting with text translation options and then extending this to the look and feel of your site. This includes localized media, brand assets, and call to action (CTA) buttons. Through localization testing, you make sure all of this is just right.

What you need to know before you begin localization testing

To make the most of your testing, you should do a little preparation before getting started. Think of it as setting parameters, so you know what you’re trying to achieve.  

1. Define your expected timelines

To start with, you should set out your expected timelines to plan when localization testing will take place. Usually, localization testing is carried out during website development, but after the website localization process itself is finished.

Ideally, the testing process should be completed before the website is available to users so that you can be confident your site’s UI works exactly how it should before it goes live.

Don’t panic if you’ve already pushed your site live, you can still go ahead with testing. It’s a good idea to continue checking how well your internationalization efforts are working during ongoing testing. This is sometimes called regression testing, and it should become a regular part of your site’s maintenance.

2. Gather background preparation for your testers

Next up, you want to ensure you have prepared all of the necessary information for your testers, so they know exactly what they’re looking at – and so they’ll be able to easily identify when something isn’t quite right.

·  Target audience: Prepare some contextual information about who the website is intended for, so your testers can step into your customers’ shoes.

·  Technical information: Share and define technical terms that will be relevant to the website, along with details of how particular products work, to familiarise your testers with this language.

·  Site history: Include some details about previous versions of the site and any major changes or previous translations that your testers should be aware of.

3. Recruit localization testers

Anyone can take part in localization testing, but for the best results, testing should be performed by professionals who are specialized in localization. Several types of roles can be involved, including engineers and linguists.

When recruiting your team of localization testers, look for people who:

·  have specific technical skills

·  are native speakers or able to speak the local language

·  have an understanding of cultural specifications

·  have knowledge of local regulations

A range of areas need to be covered during localization and you should aim to reflect this with a wide skill set across your team of testers.

You can also reach out to local residents, inviting them to join a panel to provide feedback on your multilingual site as part of this process.

4. Prepare test cases

Test cases include scenarios or workflows for how potential customers will use your site. Asking your testers to execute these test cases helps them simulate how users might navigate through your web pages.

Following this methodology, you might ask a tester to complete an action or navigate to a page or product, and this gives you a better idea of how users will interact with specific parts of your website.

Test cases might also involve a target language or particular operating systems to check compatibility. Whichever way you plan it, by preparing test cases, you can analyze both the functionality and the appropriateness of your globalization efforts.

5. Reporting

Prepare a checklist and ask your testers to fill this out during the process. You can ask specific questions to cover different sections of the websites or different elements of the testing process.

You could also prepare a set of steps for reporting problems and ask your testers to provide screenshots to pinpoint exactly what they are referring to.

Once the planning is all set, you’re ready to start the functional testing of the localized version of your website so you can expand into new markets with confidence.

How to perform localization testing

Follow these steps to complete the localization testing process of an international or multilingual website:

1. Test the software functionalities and UI of the website 

Design and functionality checklist:

·   Site layout

·   Text in boxes

·   Pop-ups

·   CTA buttons

·   Image sizes

After translating your site, check everything still looks how it should. Start with a focus on site layout, because – to put it simply – customers like things that look nice.

Review the design and functionality of all elements. This includes checking that the text fits correctly into boxes, which can be challenging when a translated language uses far more or fewer words.

You may want to show different designs based on the audience group, as CNN does for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking audiences. Whatever your plans, localization testing ensures you deliver your site how it is intended.

CNN homepage in English and Spanish

Test your pop-ups to ensure they still display nicely after translation. It’s important for your site’s success that pop-ups can keep doing their jobs correctly, like converting traffic, building email lists or driving sales.

You can also check that images are still sized correctly in relation to the rest of the content.

Legal requirements checklist:

·   GDPR

·   Cookies

·   Terms and conditions

·   Accessibility

When it comes to legal requirements, you should check that your site complies with local regulations for cookies consent and data protection.

Nikon has different cookie policies in Spain and in Italy

For example, Nikon’s cookies policy can be accessed in a wide range of languages, including Spanish and Italian.

When targeting customers who live in the EU, you need to comply with GDPR if you collect personal data about how these customers interact with your site. You’ll also need to check the overall terms and conditions are still sufficient in the context of your chosen country or region.

To create an accessible multilingual site, you should review how your fonts look in different languages, which can affect readability. Having an inaccessible website can stop your site from effectively reaching its goals.

Look up web content accessibility standards to see if there are international web accessibility laws or policies relating to the area you’re targeting. Your testers should check that your website meets any additional requirements.

Usability and UI quality checklist:

·   Measuring units

·   Currencies

·   Date formats

·   Local standards

·   Best practices

Little things tend to stick out when they’re wrong. Potential customers might be thrown off by mentions of measuring units that aren’t commonly used in their particular locale.

Making things even more complicated, some systems use the same terms for units that are different sizes. For example, US Gallons are smaller than Imperial Gallons. It’s particularly important to get sizing right if you run an e-commerce site that includes product measurements.

More significant problems can happen when localization misses out currencies. You could unintentionally create a psychological barrier to transactions if customers are still being asked to pay in dollars after you’ve created a multilingual website for European markets.

Local preferences for date and time format should also be considered. For instance, while the US tends to explain dates using month first, then day, then year, much of Europe starts with day first, and there are date formatting variations all over the world.

Adhering to local standards and best practices, such as whether links open in a new window, a new tab, or the same tab, can also have an impact on site usability.

As seen in the way Amazon flips design for Hebrew, your testers should review how the UI is impacted by changes such as using right-to-left languages.

design is different for Amazon in Hebrew

You should also consider how well your site can be interacted with using local keyboard layouts with different hotkeys.

2. Check the website content

Translation accuracy checklist:

·   Words

·   Grammar and punctuation

·   Terminology

·   Linguistic context

·   List orders

·   Fixing typos

During the second phase, testers should check the accuracy of translations across your entire site. This covers all parts of the website: every word, the grammar and punctuation, the terminology and the linguistic context that helps us interpret language.

Take punctuation as an example: it affects meaning and provides essential context. Misusing punctuation can misrepresent what you are trying to say.

With the way commas are used in the English language, these two sentences describe very different purchases with major implications for the price, delivery options and customer expectations:

·  “This product package includes a bike, helmet and lock.”

·  “This product package includes a bike helmet and lock.”

When checking content, you should confirm that lists are still sorting correctly, especially if they are supposed to be ordered alphabetically.

When WeWork’s list of locations is translated to German, Cologne becomes Köln. This affects alphabetization, but the order of the list remains the same, with K for Köln now ahead of F for Frankfurt.

alphabetization is different after translation

If the list was re-ordered to maintain alphabetization after the translation, this would improve the user experience for German-speakers looking for WeWork locations in their country.

You should also search for any typos that might have slipped through the net, so you can fix these before your site is visited by customers.

Cultural significance checklist:

·   Product names

·   Images and icons

·   Color schemes

Don’t forget to take regional standards and culturally-important terms, signs or colors into account when checking your web content. This includes checking how product names might have a different meaning after translation.

tweet highlighting Amazon Sweden's bad translation

Amazon’s launch in Sweden made headlines for all the wrong reasons when users found mistranslations on its site (and most included rude words).

headline about Amazon Sweden's translation blunder

Colors have connotations that vary depending on language and culture. Images and icons can have important cultural significance too, such as the bear, which reflects national symbolism for a range of countries and regions.

However, the bear connotes different meanings when understood through the lens of ancient mythology, folklore, religion, and even in children’s stories and pop culture, and interpretations will vary in different parts of the world.

3. Validation of the results 

Results analysis checklist:

·   Final reports

·   Feedback

·   Test case results

The final part of your localization testing is the most important. It’s time to ask your team of testers to provide their final reports, listing any errors they observed or issues they encountered.

You should review the feedback that’s provided, analyze the results of your test cases and make adjustments to your site where you need to. Validate translation accuracy, polish usability, and improve your chances of customer success.

Advantages of localization testing

Putting the effort into localization testing saves you time and money by identifying any bugs, niggles or issues with your website before it launches. This contributes to how customers in your new market will perceive your brand.

Without localization testing, errors could affect a business’ reputation, perhaps even making the brand look careless or unprofessional. Instead, taking the time to test your multilingual site to ensure it hits the mark shows care and dedication.

If you asked a sample of real local users to join in your localization testing efforts, this could also be a great first step to engaging with your new audience.

Your next steps for localization

It’s an exciting time when you’re opening up new markets, and you’ll want to get it right. Your website is the face of your organization, so its look and feel, as well as how your customers interact with it, have great importance.

Through localization testing, you can iron out mistranslations and any unwanted impacts of translation on design or usability, while complying with legal requirements and connecting appropriately with cultural standards.

Localization is important, and there’s a lot to consider if you want to get it right, but there is support and expertise available to assist you. Weglot helps businesses all around the world with their localization projects – and this involves so much more than translation.

Sign up for a free trial with Weglot today.

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