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I am wondering, if there are any situations, when it is necessary to localize a system (especially: online system) at a level below language.

Usually, localization regards two levels:

  • country
  • language (if multiple used in a country)

Then it goes down to regionalization (I mean: displaying content relevant to some administrative part of a country, be it district, city, voyvodship in my beautiful country or anything else).

My question is: When (if) it is necessary to localize an online system due to some internal division of the society (religious, cultural or national in multi-nationality countries, but not just regional).

I mean something more than just content profiling, of course. Something that would manifest as a "choose your group" field.

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Beyond language, localization includes language but also cultural relevance (ie pop culture references, jargon). Images also may need to be changed (ie an image of a woman in sleeveless dress in some countries would be offensive).

Other related things that may affect your content and site design based on locale: masculine / feminine roles, collectivist / individualistic identity of the visitor uncertainty avoidance / risk-taking etc. (I'm sure there are many other dimensions that I have failed to mention. Many of these from The Culturally Customized Web Site)

The question about when it's necessary to localize an online system due to internal divisions is completely in context of whatever your system is attempting to do:

  • Is there something about your content that justifies making the distinction at this level?
  • If so, do the internal divisions have a commonly accepted way of expressing these that would be easily recognized if presented to users?
  • Is the business value of having these distinctions high enough to justify the expense and effort needed to create and maintain the various versions of content?

While I haven't done what you describe, I would suggest approaching the problem not by divisions of society but perhaps as personalization ("More like this" etc is a common approach to tailor a system to the visitor). Similarly, taking care to eliminate the need for such level of regional variety seems like a much better path unless you have very specific goals that would require doing so.

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Color is also very important. For instance, unless I'm mistaken, Red is considered as good/positive for Japanese culture. –  AsafBO Aug 29 '13 at 11:11
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Since writing this answer I have discovered a great resource for comparing cultural dimensions that I thought I'd share here geert-hofstede.com/countries.html . Choose one country then another to get comparison of the two. –  Steve Aug 29 '13 at 18:03
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