Quick Guide to Product Localization

Last Updated June 1, 2023

Product localization goes beyond translation to create a tailor-made user experience.

With a single click of a button, customers online in any market around the world can access your latest tech offering.

And when products are available to the user in their native language and with cultural resonance, it creates a better customer experience.

Let’s take a quick look at what we mean by product localization, its benefits, and the workflow cycle that achieves it effectively.

What is product localization?

Product localization is the process of adapting a product or service to the language and culture of customers in a specific target market.

It includes everything from user interface (UI) elements and technical documentation to marketing materials and web or mobile apps.

On top of offering your content, products, and services in the local language or dialect, localization includes using local address and date formats, displaying the correct currency and units of measurement, choosing appropriate colors and graphics, and much more.

The goal of product localization is to make your product feel as if it is made specifically for customers in any target market rather than being an adaptation of the original. This allows you to break into different new markets simultaneously and quickly.

The whole process begins with internationalization, also known as i18n. It’s a design and development stage at the starting point that makes it easier to localize down the road.

Take IKEA, for example. The international furniture company presents its assembly instructions by pictograms. IKEA doesn’t use any text as they would need to translate into any number of languages.

Their website, marketing materials, warranties and other information can be accessed multilingually. The instructions, however, nail internationalization by using only illustrations.

Products with instructions that do require translation are written with the goal of being as culturally neutral as possible.

IKEA has a global market it mind … but you still need to know how to use an Alan key and don’t misplace any parts.

Benefits of Product Localization

Again, people should feel like your product was made for them, and that it’s not a knockoff of the original in their language.

English is the most widely spoken language in 2023. More than 1.5 billion people speak English as a first or second language all over the planet, a figure that has been growing steadily over the past few years.

But that still amounts to only around 19 percent of the population. You’re therefore leaving 80 percent off the table if you’re tailoring your product to a single language, even if it’s the most spoken.

And when you look at most spoken first languages, the need for localization becomes even clearer.

(via The Most Spoken Languages 2023 – statisticsanddata.org)

Effective product localization therefore results in higher potential revenue. And that’s the goal, right?

Here’s three other specific benefits to keep in mind.

1. Scale

Become a true multi-national brand by bringing your products and services to a global audience.

2. Adapt

Customize your product information and offering to each market’s unique linguistic, technical, and cultural needs.

3. Engage

Resonate with your audience and create brand loyalty by giving your product a truly locally made feel.

To really show you why it’s important, let’s talk about Uber.

Uber Localization

Consider Uber, for example. Since 2009, the company has been expanding all over the world and you can now get from A to B in over 10,000 cities – and not just by car.

In North America, we use Uber to hail motor vehicles to drive on local roads and highways. Not everyone gets around that way, though. Uber tailors its services based on local capabilities and customs by offering rides on motorbikes in Thailand, boats in Egypt, and even rickshaws in India.

It also extends to language. UberESPAÑOL is available in the Central Valley cities of California—Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, and Stockton—where most of the population is of Hispanic origin. Similarly, Uber users in Colombia can request a driver certified as an English speaker, through a newly launched service called UberENGLISH.

Finally, cultural considerations are a key part of localization efforts.

If you use the Uber app in China, you’ll notice the car icons are bright red as opposed to black and grey elsewhere. Uber understands consumers resonate with color, and in China, red represents luck.

Additionally, Uber has a cash payment option in countries where debit and credit cards aren’t as common.

These kinds of decisions make a huge difference and can set your innovation apart from the competition.

The Product Localization Cycle

So, how exactly do you open this door to scalability, quicker time to market, and higher revenues?

Begin by trusting a proven localization services provider with experienced project managers and established processes.

Delegate to a project manager capable of delivering on time, on budget, and up to your standards.

An outdated, unproven product localization process will have consequences for your company’s future. Not having one to begin with will be even more detrimental.

When you start developing, you need to think about your audience. A problem creators face is “How do I think like my audience?” That’s tricky because, in the best case, your audiences ends up being from all over the world. The differences across varying cultural contexts lead to specific design decisions..

A good localization company will therefore make sure you’re set up for internationalization success from the outset.


From there, you turn to software localization.

  1. Identify resource files to translate
  2. Translate content
  3. Review translations for errors
  4. Place translated files into your code structure
  5. Resize dialog boxes as needed
  6. Build, compile, and test resulting software for all target markets

You should also remember to translate your software into languages using alphabets other than that in which the source text was written. If English software is translated into Japanese or Arabic, the screen will look completely different.

Prepare all source elements (or created from scratch) to be translatable. This applies both to the creative part (the design) and the technical one (the code).

Finally, remember that space occupied by different languages varies. German, for example, is a language with some pretty long words. English, on the other hand, is one of the most concise languages.

This includes resource bundles, help manuals, script installation, and product information.


Next, you focus on documents. That includes the localization of user guides, admin guide, help guides.

You also need to localize your documents’ images, layout, and style to adapt it to your target region.


Finally, there’s testing for functionality and linguistic continuity.

The amount of testing will depend on your requirements and the depth of your localization effort. Always make sure to provide your testers with detailed instructions and test cases. There are situations where you may want to do ad-hoc testing, but formal testing is a necessary step to ensure quality.

Don’t forget, in localization QA, many different testers will repeat the same functions (as many as the number of languages you have). Unless you provide a test script, you won’t know if all of them tested the entire product or not.

You can download our localization testing checklist for further reference, and learn more about how we provided reliable, scalable e-commerce localization solution to a leading e-commerce group based in the Nordics.

Get the Best Product Localization Service

The recipe for localization success is simple: the best technology, people, and processes. Sidestepping the budget and schedule requires experience and smarts.

The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to work with an experienced product localization service.

Contact us today to get started.

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