Localization First, Not Last: Stages in The UX Design Process

9 mins read

If you’re already a pro at localization, you probably think that localization is an excellent way to reach target audiences from a specific region. If you’re starting out, localization means the whole process of adapting content to suit a different regional audience.

Today, we’ll talk about the place of localization in UX and translation in design. In the past, localization may have been considered separate from the entire web design process. Maybe even an afterthought. But in the current, more vastly globalized web development scene, that mindset can lead companies dangerously closer to irrelevance.

UX Localization first, not last — this is one of my team’s common mantras at Tomedes, a localization services provider, believes in and applies in our customer projects. We’re adapting the client’s content from one region to another. We’ll tell you more about our experience of putting localization first and how Crowdin helps us with this approach.

Why Is UX Localization Important?

But first, let’s quickly go over why localization is so important in the first place, particularly for web design.

In the early days of the internet, localization was often limited to larger tech companies that already had the resources to expand into different regional markets. In short, it was a luxury. But now, competition and demand in the tech industry have practically ensured its status as a common standard.

In earlier decades, English had been considered the language of the internet. This may have seemed only natural at the time, as a significant portion of its early development was happening in English-speaking countries.

English-only content is no longer the case today. Much of the world can now boast a strong online presence and a larger and more diverse audience of people from different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages. Thus, localization can no longer be seen as a luxury for web companies looking to succeed in today’s internet landscape.

What’s The Problem With Leaving Translation in Design for Last?

So we’ve established why localization is an important part of web design today. Role of design localization is something that web developers may already be aware of, but many still overlook the problems that tend to come up when they leave it for last in the design process.

Usually, the web design is ready to go before it’s localized, but it would cause additional work in the future since it won’t account for linguistic changes. Let’s go through the usual process.

Design thinking is a design methodology that provides solutions to problems. The five-stage model was proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and is used by many UX designers and some localization services.

The five stages are as follows: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.

All of these stages have a bearing on the localization process, but it’s essential to zero in on the first stage, which is to empathize. A designer must gain a deep understanding of users and their needs to anticipate the problems that need to be addressed in the design.

Because the end goal of localization is to adapt a design, product, or service to the linguistic and cultural context of a different target audience, designers must deal with the specific challenges that come with designing for those audiences. It often means more than just translating text from the original language to the target audience.

Still, many designers and developers set localization aside until later, assuming that what applies to their original audience would apply to others or, at worst, require just minor tweaks. As such, they would only begin paying attention to it once the design reaches the prototype stage.

The difficulty with leaving localization for such a late stage is that issues come up on account of different audiences’ cultural, behavioral, and linguistic differences. But at this point, much time and resources are already invested in the original design, which would have to be changed. At best, it would cause a delay and extra cost, depending on how heavy the revisions have to be. At worst, it could mean releasing a rushed and unpolished product due to inflexible deadlines.

Localization First: The Model Localization Services Experts Recommend

At Tomedes, we use a different method – we put localization first. That way, we can accommodate changes in different languages, cultures, and other linguistic differences. It’s a simple step, but it makes a difference for the whole process of UX design.

Since part of the UX process is to create a User Journey Map, we first determine the possible difficulty our users might encounter while using our website or product – the definition stage of the usual design thinking process.

From my perspective, to do that, we must know who will be using our website or product. We need to know the user’s goals, needs, pain points, location, and language. So, we create user personas for localization at the very beginning. With this, we can gain perspective of the target user’s behavior and can design products that will satisfy their needs.

Linguistic and Cultural Nuances in Web Design Localization

When it comes to left-to-right languages, language and cultural shifts in images and phrases, button alignment, localization is done at the beginning saves a lot of time.

  1. Left-to-right languages. Creating the right-to-left design and changing it to left-to-right isn’t a smooth process. You may have different typography that doesn’t translate well, such as space adjustments or layout changes due to text lengths. It would help if you accounted for it when you’re thinking of localization in the very beginning.
  2. Images and phrases. Layout changes due to images will also need to be taken into account. You should also pick out appropriate images for your particular localization efforts. All of this should also be done in the beginning of your localization journey.
  3. Button alignment. Your CTA buttons will also change based on the texts of the languages or the cultural phrases, so taking account of the button alignment before the final product is crucial.

Here’s an article with best practices in UI localization for more information and inspiration. It talks about integrating localization into your design workflow and integrating your localization projects with Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD, and steps to make this process easier for all localizers, UX designers, and developers to accommodate these linguistic and cultural changes.

Why Localization Services Experts Use Crowdin

Crowdin, as a tool for developers, translators, and localization specialists, would help make this transition easier. One of the advantages of Crowdin is its cloud-based collaborative model that ensures all relevant parties have access to material and can communicate and work on them together in real-time.

The platform lends itself very well to the localization process at all design stages due to the over 120 apps and integrations. Of particular note are the Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD plugins, which can be a lifesaver for UI and graphic design teams working in different languages by greatly expediting the prototype and testing stages of the process. These integrations also simplify the process of extracting and organizing strings from the designs, as well as helping provide better context for the translators to do their work.

This means that Crowdin can help integrate localization into the development process from the start by allowing for much more efficient feedback throughout the development cycle. As the designers come up with the necessary assets, translators and localization specialists can quickly make adjustments or raise red flags when they notice nuances that should be altered, before they snowball into a costly renovation. Additional work is usually the case when localization is left for the tail end of the design process instead of putting it first.

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Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a company that specializes in translation services with localization services integral to translation. Tirosh has helped many global and Fortune 500 companies achieve their localization goals with design thinking.

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