This is one of the 52 terms in The Language of Technical Communication published by XML Press in 2016 and the contributor for this term is James V. Romano.

What is it?

Adaptation of content to make it more meaningful, appropriate, and effective for a particular culture, locale, or market.

Why is it important?

Localization increases the relevance of content for a particular target audience.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Localization, sometimes abbreviated as l10n, is an essential process for technical communicators. More than just an add-on at the end of the content development cycle, localization requires careful planning and strategy right from the start.

To be effective, content must be relevant and meaningful to the target audience. Localization is the process by which content is made more appropriate and more meaningful for a particular culture. Without localization, technical communicators would be spinning generic pablum in the hope that users (near or far) will recognize a scintilla of meaning, latch on, and perhaps buy the product, heed the warning, or swallow the pitch.

Localization is strategic: it requires a comprehensive, planned approach in which all parts of the content system – the messaging, technologies, audience – come together in a dynamic, creative process, producing what can best be described as an “aha moment.” Localized content taps into the power of local culture and uses it to project and amplify its message to create a deeper, more resonant message.

Localization is about producing an aha in any language, culture, or medium. Content that doesn’t lead to an aha falls flat. On the other hand, a localization-driven content strategy is capable of producing meaningful content experiences for its audience(s), creating a-has in Anchorage, Andorra, and Anhui.

In sum, technical communicators need to know how to leverage the power of culture to create successful content experiences, and localization is the means by which they can harness that power.