10 Main Challenges in UX and Localization and how to Solve Them

Learn how to overcome the 10 main challenges in UX and localization with practical solutions and examples. Boost your skills and knowledge in this rewarding field with this blog post created by Bruna Beatriz Gabriel.
May 17 / Bruna Beatriz Gabriel
Designing a user experience (UX) for global success requires strategic planning and proactive measures.
One key aspect to consider is leveraging automation, centralization, and collaboration through an app localization platform right from the outset.
By doing so, teams can streamline processes and efficiently tackle UX and localization problems that commonly arise during app development.
With this in mind and knowing that companies have limited resources, what can we do to prepare the ground for localized assets to offer complete, cohesive, intuitive, smooth, and functional user experiences?
Integrating UX into Localization (and vice-versa) is one of the most effective ways to harness the potential of any product or service.
Here are 10 common problems and how we can fix them:

1. Internationalization Issues

The tools used in the entire project are not supported by a given tool or cannot read content smoothly.
This happens when the internationalization stage is poorly done or not conducted at all.

What does it mean?
This sort of issue can be visualized when the UI does not follow a language’s criteria, such as readability from right to left or buttons that have text flowing out of them because there was a 25% increase in the final copy. Or when currencies, numeric, date and time formats are not changeable for different countries. Or even when flags are used to represent a language.

The solution: invest time and money to hire localization professionals who can work with other teams (such as design, UX, and devs) to ensure internationalization considers flexible design models, allowing for extra characters, longer or shorter languages, different format requirements, preferred visualizations, changes in colors, references, symbols, and much more!

2. Go To Market Issues

Adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach when deciding to take your company to a new market.

Languages and cultures work in different ways. Don’t assume that your strategy to expand business to South America will perfectly work for the European market, for example.

What can be done? To start off, market research that comprehends the above mentioned stage (internationalization) and provides enough data to adopt designs, ux writing, and localization approaches aligned with the results found for each country and product.
Your localization should reflect your company’s style and tone of voice, respect the target audience, and invite users to come back. Always.

3. Poor Readability or Device Suitability

Think of how you read, choose to access content, and interact with apps and websites in your a) smartphone and b) laptop.

If successfully adapted, a product or service will run perfectly in different devices and you won’t even realize the heavy work behind each feature (because they work seamlessly).

However, if you’re used to doing your workout sessions from your computer, at home, and then decide to take it to the gym and use your smartphone for that but the video keeps freezing or part of the workout options menu is cut out (true story), there’s a high risk that users will abandon the app and look for a similar one or leave bad reviews on the store.

Testing is an essential part of user experience because it creates scenarios in which we can expect a product to fail or succeed. Through testing, we can confirm what type of adjustments still need to be done before releasing your long-awaited localized app – which will be ready for high conversion rates and satisfied customers.

4. Generic Workflows

Anything that is generic represents lack of understanding.

Processes can only be improved when all their steps make sense and have a purpose (which, by the way, has everything to do with the basic principles of UX writing: 1) Principle of usability;
2) Simplified Choices for Efficiency;
3) Conservation of Complexity; and
4) Robustness principle.

The same is valid for the design, development, and localization stages. Each step is going to impact the other, which is why an integrated approach is the dream of any localizer.

I’m constantly faced with strings that provide zero visual references or context and can mean at least 2 different things, if not more. This is a consequence of a generic workflow (from design to localization).

The answer for this type of problem might sound crazy and time-consuming, but providing as much information as possible and guide localizers as you’d like users to be guided actually saves time and money. Otherwise, your localization will also feel generic and cost your company even more time and money to fix the issues flagged.
(Besides the fact that customers love feeling unique, which can be demonstrated through your communication towards them).

5. Lack of Empathy

I know this one doesn’t sound like a technical term, but when we talk about experiences and customers it might be one of the most important aspects we should learn.
This is shown in too aggressive messages or non-inclusive and non-accessible content, for example.

Empathy can be hard to measure and it takes practice, but it’s all worth it! You need to test the waters, through trial and error, and get involved in the process to the point where you are constantly asking yourself ‘I wonder how users will feel, react, and interact with this button/menu/feature once it’s displayed on their screens’. I strongly believe that being experienced plays a big role in a localizer’s level of empathy.

6. Inconsistent User Interface

UI plays a crucial role in usability.

Let’s consider the fact that users like to:
1) scan UI in the fastest possible way

2) succeed at the first attempt(s)
of an action
3) spend the minimum amount of time
doing so
4) know what to do in case an error
is found, and
5) have fun or at least a pleasant experience
while navigating through an app or website.

It becomes clear that coherent, simple, and intuitive UX patterns are well-established by now, so we need to make sure the user interface facilitates decision-making for users and reduce cognitive workload in their brains is the best approach here.

With localization in mind, companies should create a style guide or design system to establish consistent visual and interaction patterns throughout the product. Besides that, regular reviews and updates must be implemented as the product or service evolves.

Finally, a UX Localization kit should always include all UI elements identified, organized into categories, with any additional instructions or clarifications already provided or a channel of communication established for future inquiries.

7. Counter-Intuitive Navigation

Similar to the topic before, but one of the key aspects to consider for any successful development – UX design – UX writing – UX localization project.

Our attention span is everyday shorter, which is why we must signal users what their next action should be.
For example: in order to create an account, users need to provide two basic information: an email and a password. However, we’ve all had bad user experiences when trying to get through this simple first stage.

It may be that we already have a registered account but don’t remember the password. By taking a first glance at it, is it intuitive where to click or tap to recover such password?

Other times, we want to link an existing account to log in more easily. Does the UI show users how to do that? Or do users need to spend a long time searching for this option and, possibly, end up leaving the page?

Let’s talk about passwords now. Every website has its own password requirements (even though they all tend to be the same). Make sure to use “empty spaces” – you know, those fields empty until something is typed in, to indicate what type of letters, symbols, and special characters are expected and accepted.

8. Unprepared Content

Speaking in terms of internationalization, unprepared content is not a rare condition. It means that the content was only designed to work in the source (or languages similar to the source), disregarding its potential to reach broader markets. Besides that, English isn’t universal.
Let’s see how can we prepare content.

First, we need to internalize that every culture is the translation of a place’s habits, norms, interests, joy, communication, and values. According to Ruben Pater, “We can no longer assume that our audience shares the same visual language and values.”

After that, and referring back to the previous point, we need to get the basics right. By the basics I mean allocate resources to build up different teams to handle the different stages of the project, including one for each language. This takes us to the next step.

Prepare your files to support all the languages to be localized (please enable unicode!) and different directions (for the languages that are read from right to left); time and date formats; different currencies; symbols, icons, and colors; interface patterns; dynamic button width and height (for longer or shorter texts and different font sizes); forms and input fields (like we discussed in topic number 7 as well), and more.

Understand local markets, their needs, their preferences, and how your product aligns with that. You’ll probably localize to Spanish-speaking countries, for instance, but are you targeting them all using a unique approach? It’s not the best idea, since Spanish is official in 21 countries.

Besides that, run usability, functionality, and linguistic tests. You’ll want to make sure that all operational systems run smoothly, with properly localized content and responsive webpages or apps to retain users and show them why they should choose you over your competitor. We unconsciously spend more time and have more fun on apps that offer us unforgettable user experiences.
Finally, adapt to new realities (just like AirBnb had to do after an 80% decrease in its bookings due to the pandemic) and gather feedback from users. More on that later.

9. Not Going “the Extra Mile” 

Why put on extra work if you’re getting good results already?

Because that’s how brands stand out and become sustainable. A lot of companies perform well, but some are particularly excellent at what they do (take Disney and its localization strategies).

The point is not to localize so well that your users don’t realize they’re consuming localized content. What I mean here is go beyond expectations. Hire experts in their local languages and give them the autonomy to add a special touch to your product. This can be achieved with memes, catch phrases, emojis (which, by the way, are interpreted differently from one culture to another), recent events, global events (like the world cup, but presented in a localized way), and more.

Users’ behavior depends on a myriad of factors, but getting recommendations from friends because a service is not only good but communicates in a natural and engaging way still plays a huge role in our decision making process, especially with so many options out there.

10. Disregarding Neurodiversity 

Finally, I’d like to briefly address neurodiversity and accessible content. It’s about time we dedicate ourselves to understand the untypical functioning of diverse audiences.

Although empathy (highlighted on topic 5) needs to be backed up by data and analysis, it’s a good starting point. Going from there, we can always ask ourselves if the content being localized is:
a) predictable
b) structured
c) frustration-free

These are only 3 aspects among several others to be considered, but they show users that such product is making the effort to implement a more comprehensive approach.

Moreover, here’s what teams shouldn’t do when writing and localizing for any audience:
a) address users in a passive-aggressive way
b) trigger anxiety through urgent action needs
c) assume you know what users like or need without asking first


From addressing cultural differences to ensuring effective content adaptation, integrating localization solutions early enables the identification, prevention, and resolution of internationalization and localization issues, ultimately enhancing the user experience for diverse global audiences.
This is a compilation of several articles, studies, and materials I’m bringing together for my course "Expert on UX and Localization" with TranslaStars. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topics mentioned and gather feedback to enrich my research.

Want to learn more from some of the best world experts inUI and UX? Then do not miss these courses:
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