Read this before your content localization goes wrong

Share This

If you think developing content for your company will be a simple task, think again.

Part of selling to a target audience is connecting with them, and not just with language. Each country and area has its own customs, language eccentricities, and norms that impart certain connotations and underlying meaning. Writing and designing with the customs of one demographic, and publishing it in another area will mean your content sticks out like a sore thumb.

See what we did there? “Sticks out like a sore thumb” may be a popular phrase in American English, but when translating to Arabic, the writer cannot translate literally, because the phrase doesn’t exist in Arabic. Great care must be taken to find a phrase that conveys the same meaning.

Here are ways in which different content creators must localize their content in order to most effectively communicate with the intended audience:


  1. Spelling- Words are spelled differently in different parts of the world, even if the language is the same. Jewellery vs. jewelry. Color vs. Colour. Be sure you know common spelling of your target area.
  2. Idioms and expressions- Like our example above, many expressions only exist in one country or area. Don’t make your content dead on arrival by using foreign phrases.


  1. Local perspective- It’s always best to hire a local photographer who knows the ins and outs of the city. Your photographs should resonate with locals in a way that only a local photographer can provide. Information must be presented in a way that feels natural.
  2. Competitors- A local photographer will know what your competitors are doing and can tailor his shots based on this knowledge.
  3. Style personality and coloring- Each country and even city has its own flavor of expected style. A funny image in the UK may not resonate at all in KSA.
  4. Place in the culture- Your photographer will have an idea of where your business model fits into the local sub-culture.
  5. Keeping it clean- The biggest gaffe would be a photo that comes across as offensive to a certain group of people. Hire locally to avoid this PR nightmare.


  1. Colors have meaning! European cultures associate black with death, while East Asian countries associate white.
  2. Symbols (like animals) may not translate. Owls may represent knowledge to some, and death to others.
  3. Certain images are just not appropriate in some cultures. Showing a woman riding a bike could be seen as normal, or extremely offensive, depending on the audience.
  4. Since Arabic readers scan pages right to left, while English readers go left to right, design of the content must follow.
  5. Fonts have connotation too! You may think a font makes your brand look relevant to a young target audience, but it could make your content appear outdated.

Web Design

  1. Make room for text expansion and contraction. Having a bi-lingual site means planning for these little changes.
  2. Font size needed may depend on the language used. For example, Chinese characters need to be larger to be properly understood.
  3. If targeting a country with a right-to-left language, the entire design of the website must be taken into consideration. Locals are used to scanning from right to left, and will take in content differently than those reading left-to-right.
  4. If your site contains any dates, times, or currencies, these could be misconstrued as well. Be sure your target audience can get the information they need as easily as possible.
  5. Icons on the site must be relevant in each culture. Again, be sure there is nothing offensive baked into content that you think is straightforward.


Here are some examples of content localization gone horribly wrong.

Content is created with the purpose of connecting with your audience and sharing your message. If you don’t localize, it’s as pointless sharing in another language. Craft your market positioning strategy with the help of locals so your objectives aren’t hindered by poor understanding of the culture.

If you don’t have a team who can do this, contact us here at Chess Tag, where we specialize in content localization.