Canva: Reaching 30 million users through localized content


In this fireside chat with Canva’s Localization Program Lead Michael Levot and Localization Product Lead Paul Buckley, we dig deeper into their secret to global success.

Launched in 2013 in Australia, Canva is an online design and publishing tool with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.

Today, Canva has over 60 million monthly active users, half of whom are non-English speakers, and the platform is available in over 130 languages.

Canva’s localization success was born out of their mission to make the tool as accessible as possible to users across the globe and provide the best user experience, no matter what language they speak.

A speak-peek into Canva’s localization program

  • The key is hyper-localization – creating an experience that resonates with local markets without having to rebuild Canva every time.
  • Canva team dove into localization efforts early in the life of Canva. They rely on the data collected over time to apply their learnings and successes to new markets.
  • Knowing what design resonates with the audience isn’t easy. Canva’s localization team has to adapt to the subtle differences in the cultures and languages and the audiences’ unique needs in a scalable way. So they let the local design teams take control and always experiment with what works with different markets. The same goes for marketing and other content.

Why is considering localization in the early stage of product development so important?

Localization must be considered at the beginning of the product development, whether it be implementation or strategizing.

Canva benefited enormously by beginning localization early. They built automation early and achieved good development velocity, and the product is never blocked by localization. Working backward – fixing issues and making up for lack of scale aftermath – wastes a lot of resources. So start with a scalable strategy upfront. If you localize early, you have more opportunities for trial and error. See what sticks with users and help decide which markets to prioritize.

How does Canva evaluate its localization success?

One of the most crucial evaluation metrics to watch is retention rate – how many users are using the product and returning to use the product time after time. You could also evaluate how well users engage with your content, the number of bugs reported, and what kind of feedback you’re getting from the users.

How does Canva stay on-brand while localizing for all the different locales?

Canva focuses on ensuring all employees share the same company values and cultures and works toward the same goals. It’s part of their hiring and onboarding process. This strategy helps maintain good communication between departments, and the Canva brand stays on brand even though the Canva product is heavily customized for many different regions.

Additionally, Canva keeps an up-to-date style guide and makes it accessible to all translators. That way, the brand color and tone of voice come through clearly in their translations.

How does Canva prioritize its localization projects?

Evaluating Canva’s growth data helps the team decide which languages and regions to focus on first. Thanks to starting their localization initiatives early on, they have a pool of data they can use to make future projections and data-driven decisions.

They also look at the market sizes and the potential number of users in a locale. Even if a market is smaller than others, they also look at the urgency – how severe the consequences will be if the product isn’t localized for that market. For example, in a region that uses right-to-left scripts, the user experience could suffer more than others if the platform isn’t localized. Canva would first achieve minimal viable quality for such locale and work on improving user experience from there.