Localizing Your Alexa Skills: How to Tailor Your Voice Experience for Global Audiences

Jaime Radwan Jan 09, 2019
Tips & Tools Multimodal

As Alexa expands to more countries and languages, you have more opportunities to make your skills available to a growing audience around the world. If you're ready to take your skill global, you'll first want to consider the best way to localize, or internationalize, the experience.

We've all had the experience of reading the instructions for a product made in another country or language that was translated poorly. Oftentimes, these products are challenging to use, which may negatively impact your experience and trust in that product or brand. Effectively handling translation and cultural differences when designing and building your Alexa skills for multiple regions is key to create a positive and engaging experience for customers everywhere.

The most important thing to recognize is that localization isn’t limited to just language. Localizing the experience is shifting how Alexa converses with different customers using your skill, using different imagery and phrases appropriate for each country. When localizing your voice experience, consider features for different languages, regional differences, and technical requirements of different target audiences. Think beyond your own native culture and language. Not only should you consider which countries you are planning to make your skill available in, but which languages will you need to support those countries. Also consider what level of translation or localization will be required.

Designing and building your skill with the following best practices in mind will help reduce the resources required to localize your skill for new countries, and help your skill have broader appeal.

When Designing the Voice Output for Your Skill

  • Be mindful of long strings of nouns or adjectives, or very long sentences that work better as short ones. Long, complex sentences are difficult to translate, and difficult to understand for customers.
  • Avoid colloquialisms, puns, or local jargon when they are not critical to content in your skill. This general rule is especially important to localization, since other spoken languages may have no equivalent jargon.
  • Make sure to define terms, and use them consistently throughout your skill. If your terminology is inconsistent in how you present certain terms, or if you don’t provide proper term definitions to those assisting in translating your voice experience, it will be difficult to provide quality translations for your customers.
  • Keep in mind that different languages have different word order. Grammatical rules in a respective language will dictate in which order these words need to come.

When Designing the Visual Output for Your Skill

  • Remember that most languages typically require more room than English, with longer words and sentences, and possibly larger characters. Make sure your visual layouts account for this, and have room to scale when required.
  • Be sure to define line wrap and truncation behavior for all visual layouts using text components. Text in your layouts should be allowed to wrap and flow to as many lines as needed. Consider accounting for at least 30% extra space within your GUI beyond what the English source requires to accommodate this.
  • Translate any text in the graphics you select. The best way to avoid dealing with localizing graphics is to minimize or avoid using text in graphics. But if you must use text in your images, make sure to verify the images are displaying properly in each locale and that the right image is being displayed.
  • Use general images that are appropriate and easily understood in your intended countries and marketplaces. Not all cultural references will be global, so try to use general images that are appropriate for a worldwide audience.
  • If you're using dates, time, phone numbers, and other general number formatting, make sure to follow local custom. For example, dates in the US are generally month, day, year but in most of Europe dates are written as day, month year.

With Alexa's availability expanding to countries all over the world, it's important to remember that the more localized your skill is, the more customers you will reach. And those customers will appreciate an experience tailored to their culture and language, leading to higher engagement and happier customers. For more examples of how you can localize your voice experience for a global audience, see the Alexa Design Guide.

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