Ready to localize your website? There’s more to it than just translating words from one language to another. To appeal to audiences around the world, your site must appeal to their preferences . . . and while we like to think good design is universal, there’s usually a cultural component as well.
To optimize your site for its intended audiences, you may need to change images, tweak the color scheme and even reimagine the content. It’s challenging, to be sure. So how do multinational brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s pull it off?
Let’s find out, shall we? Here’s how 3 multinational companies use website localization to appeal to customers around the world:
How Amazon.com Uses Website Localization To Attract Shoppers Around the World
To start, let’s take a look at how Amazon.com’s home page is localized for different markets. The slideshow above compares Amazon’s US home page with that of Japan and India.
As you can see, the American site has a color scheme that uses a lot of white, gray, black and turquoise blue. The product choices are targeted at Americans, obviously, and of course, the text is in English.
Now, take a look at the Japan page. Amazon uses the same standard layout for all of their sites – it was obviously designed to be flexible for different languages. At the same time, they’ve done much more than simply translate the words on the page. They’ve showcased different products, and the images have been changed to feature Japanese models and Japanese products. The color scheme is much lighter, with more white throughout the page.
And look at the differences between the banner ads for Amazon’s Prime Video service. Both pages use a grid to showcase some of the popular movies and TV shows available on Prime. But in the US version, the grid fades to black about halfway across. In the Japanese version, the squares are smaller, and the grid stretches across the entire page, so more video options can be featured.
And now take a look at the Indian site. The Indian site is in English, with no local language options. But even so, the content has been localized to make the site appeal to Indian customers. And the color scheme has changed, too, with more red, saffron yellow, orange and green throughout. For example, in the Prime banner on the US website, Amazon chose turquoise blue for the background. In the Indian version, it’s lime green.
How McDonald’s Uses Website Localization to Appeal to a Global Audience
Whatever you think of McDonald’s food, you can’t deny they’re a global success. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of McDonald’s international sites. We’ll start with the US site. For US customers, the restaurant chain presents a relatively subdued scheme, with lots of black and white. The page is dominated by enormous hero images of shakes, McFlurrys and soft drinks.
Now, let’s take a look at McDonald’s Japanese site. Holy eyeball-piercing colors, Batman! There’s a lot more bright red, bright yellow and white. Underneath the main image slideshow, McDonald’s uses a smaller line of rectangles stuffed with images and text. This makes the page look “busier” than its American counterpart, even though there’s actually more negative space outside the main cluster of images.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s Swedish homepage uses the same basic layout as the Japanese page. But here, dark gray dominates the color scheme to create a much more subdued look. There are also fewer small rectangles below the main image. The images and product pictures also seem to be less dominated by text, although that may just be a side effect of the differences between Roman and Japanese scripts.
McDonald’s India page, on the other hand, uses a layout that’s similar to the US homepage. But the color scheme is different. Red may be one of McDonald’s brand colors, but they use it sparingly, as an accent on the current US homepage. On the Indian homepage, red is the dominant color, along with lots of orange and yellow, and green accents.
How Coca-Cola Uses Website Localization
Coca-Cola has made some memorable translation missteps in the past. (Anyone want to “bite the wax tadpole?” No?) But those days are hopefully behind them. Now, they are one of the world’s best-known brands, and more than 80% of their sales come from outside the US. Let’s take a look at the localization strategies they use to appeal their diverse customer base.
In the US, nostalgia is one of Coca-Cola’s top brand attributes. So, the American site features a huge hero image glass Coke bottles with a subdued “nostalgic” filter. Coca-Cola’s red is present, but it doesn’t dominate the page. As with the McDonald’s US homepage, it’s more of an accent.
Next, let’s take a look at Coca-Cola’s Indian site. First of all, the top of the page is dominated by a slideshow of images that showcase local products and local multimedia marketing efforts like Coke Studio India. Secondly, the entire page is much more colorful: there’s more red, and also saffron yellow and green, the colors of the Indian flag.
Coca-Cola’s Japan site has a large slideshow on top of the page, and then a smaller slideshow underneath, similar to the McDonald’s Japan site. The color scheme is mostly reds and blues.
By now, you may have noticed some patterns in the way these companies have changed their websites to appeal to local tastes. Changing products is a no-brainer if your offers differ from country to country, and it’s easy to see why it might be helpful to use models that represent the nationality of your target audience.
But why use so much red, green and yellow on sites for the Indian market? And what’s up with all the little rows of rectangles on the Japanese sites?
Meanwhile, Japanese website design is known for being a bit busy for Western tastes. As this article notes, on one hand, the Japanese are famous for valuing simplicity and minimalism. But when it comes to web design, the Japanese tend to want as much detailed information as possible. Details give them confidence in their purchasing decisions. As a result, aesthetics are a secondary concern. Bright colors are the norm.
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