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"Yay, you did it!" "Congratulations!" "Awesome!" Little digital affirmations like these, known as success messages, are an important part of making our apps, software, and websites feel great to use. However, these messages aren't one-size-fits-all. The way we celebrate and convey success can differ a huge amount depending on where we are in the world.

Picture successfully setting something up, completing a task, or unlocking an achievement, only to be met with a digital response that feels wildly inappropriate. It's a jarring, immersion-breaking experience. As UX experts, getting localization right for these tiny but key bits of microcopy can be the difference between your product feeling genuinely tailored to a global audience, or culturally tone-deaf.

Our idea of success is shaped by our culture — and this has a widespread impact on our choices when it comes to localized success messages.

For example, for many Western cultures, achievement is an individual thing – it's about effort, winning, and personal gain. Our success messages reflect this: "You nailed it!" or "You're a star!", or in the case of this message from Bloom, "Beautiful work".

In contrast, some other cultures emphasize harmony and the collective; overtly celebrating personal success could seem boastful or insensitive.

And that’s not all of it. Essentially, we understand and express our feelings about success differently as well. In some cultures, a quiet, satisfied "Well done" might be the most effusive response, while in others a burst of celebratory emojis will have a much more positive impact. Take a look at this Starbucks message - would it work in your language?

It's not always about happiness

Hang on... I just talked about happy celebratory moments, but success messages don’t always fit into that box. Surprisingly, success isn't always a good thing. Consider the success message you might show after a user deletes data, or unsubscribes from a service. These actions might be necessary, even a relief sometimes, but do they really warrant a joyful message? Probably not.

Take a look at this message from Turo, for example. Cancelling a trip warrants some confirmation - but it's very likely we won't be happy about it.

And, of course, this is where localization can get even trickier. People from different cultures may expect different kinds of acknowledgment, even if the outcome is neutral or bittersweet. Imagine canceling a service after a negative experience – a tactful confirmation like "Your request is being processed" might be the most culturally sensitive response. Yet, in a different market, that could read as cold or even passive-aggressive.

Triggering the right emotions (and avoiding the wrong ones)

Okay, so localizing success messages is about way more than just swapping out words. It's about hitting the right emotional notes – but how? Here's where collaboration with in-market experts is vital. And this comes into play in several ways:

1. Work with cultural advisors to adapt the tone of voice:

Is it formal, friendly, or playful? Success messages should align with the product's established tone, but this can be flavored with cultural nuances. Cultural advisors can offer deep insights into how successful outcomes are understood and expressed within the target region. These insights are priceless.

2. Allow some creativity, especially in celebration & encouragement:

Instead of generic "success" messages, consider ways success can provide value to the user.  In our busy digital lives, users often appreciate success confirmations that offer additional value. Instead of just saying "Email Sent!", the message could ask, "Want to send another?" or provide a direct link to the outbox. This blend of acknowledgment and action saves the user time and effort - just like Wise did here, nudging you to add some money to your account while you wait for your card to arrive.

When designing these messages, keep the audience in mind - since they could have a different effect than you’d expect. For example, showing the next steps may be motivating for some audiences, while telling users to ‘relax’ might be better for others. Sweetgreen is telling users to "sit back and relax". Will that work for your market, or will it make users antsy and agitated?

3. Think about visual Accompaniments:

It's not just about the words! Visuals like icons, animations, and images will help you make the success experience better. They can reinforce a humoristic tone, lighten up a heavy message, or make your content a little bit more relatable. Check out this message from Gojek below - did the illustration enhance the experience in your opinion?

Certain shapes or icons may carry positive associations in the region that could be incorporated, making the message feel more familiar, personal, and natural.

Some pitfalls to avoid

1. Don’t expect the English copy you wrote to be effective everywhere.

Even if you've tried to write your English-language success messages with sensitivity, there are always nuances you'll miss if you're not intimately familiar with the target culture. Seemingly simple phrases might evoke an unexpected reaction (positive or negative) depending on context.

Example: "You crushed it!" sounds enthusiastic to a Western ear, but directly translated might come across as excessively violent or aggressive in a different cultural market.

It’s a good best practice to run user testing with people from the target region. That’s the most reliable way to uncover unexpected meanings. Provide them with your English message and ask them what feelings and associations the message evokes for them.

Remember, YOUR cultural norms aren't the baseline. Test those messages on users representative of your target region.

2. Don’t assume you know better than your local experts. Have a discussion instead

Localization specialists and cultural advisors bring expertise that, by definition, you don't have. Overriding their suggestions because something "sounds better" to you risks undermining the entire localization process.

Example: Your cultural advisor might suggest a success message that sounds wordy or even a little subdued to your ear. However, that might be the perfect tone for the target market, and pushing back could lead to a message that comes off as culturally inappropriate.

If you’re still not sure, always ask why. Have your in-market experts explain the cultural reasons that a phrase or tone works better than your initial idea. This is a fantastic opportunity to deepen your own understanding.

3. Don’t go for "fun" at all costs

Humor is one of the hardest things to translate. It’s built on shared references, expectations, and wordplay, all of which are incredibly difficult to translate accurately. A harmless attempt at humor can easily turn cringeworthy, confusing, or even vaguely offensive in another language.

On top of this, overly enthusiastic celebratory language can feel ironic or even cynical. A more understated, almost factual acknowledgment of the user's progress can be cooler and more in line with certain market segments.

Example: A punny success message like "Nailed it!" is delightful only if the user recognizes both the literal meaning and the celebratory slang use of the word "nailed". If the phrase is translated word-for-word, it's likely to simply be confusing.

So when in doubt, keep it understated, especially for high-stakes interactions. A neutral-positive tone is much safer than attempting to replicate a sense of humor that might get lost in translation, literally and figuratively. 

By the way, that doesn’t mean the source copy has to be stripped of its creative or fun side. A localized version can stray from the original as long as it maintains the same overall meaning.

Extra Credit: Related contact points to consider

1. The opposite of success: failures and errors

How do you convey that something hasn't quite worked, or needs extra information with cultural sensitivity?

2. Micro-celebrations

Even small bits of progress, especially on complex tasks, can benefit from messages tailored to the market. And you don’t have to stop at words. Tiny visual cues, like a delightful animation or a subtle color shift, can convey positive feedback in a way that feels universally understandable.

3. Sound for success

Don't neglect audio cues! A subtle celebratory sound effect for micro-wins, or a reassuring tone to accompany progress updates can work across language barriers. As always, ensure the sounds are tested, as the same celebratory fanfare might not always be interpreted as positive.

4. Timing of the celebration

When success is a slow burn process (think multi-step applications), is immediate gratification valued? Some users in a high-speed culture might enjoy instant positive affirmation, while others might find it distracting until the larger task is complete.

That's it - hope these tips gave you something to think about! Now go forth and localize some fantastic success messages. Good luck! :)

Localizing success messages: Creating local magic moments

Our idea of success is shaped by our culture — and this has a widespread impact on our choices when it comes to localized success messages.

Michal Kessel Shitrit



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