Eight essentials for any multilingual website localisation project

Published on January 2nd, 2016

website localisation

When you’re building a multilingual website localisation and translation obviously plays a key role. However, there’s far more to making a website accessible to overseas users than uploading content in their language. You have to rethink the entire structure of your website and everything you publish to really make an impact in a foreign speaking market.

It sounds like a demanding process – and it is – but it’s the only way to seriously establish yourself overseas and keep yourself there for the duration. There’ll always be competitors who use website localisation to go the extra yard with their multilingual sites.

So here are eight essentials for any multilingual website that you can’t do without:

#1: Accurate translation

Don’t rely on machine translation to convert your content into other languages – even if platforms like WordPress and Sitecore offer it. You’ll never generate the kind of leads you need from your website by relying on inaccurate translations. So get professional translation services for each language you plan to target and don’t accept any less.

#2: Language selection

The first time anyone visits your multilingual site you need to provide the right language. There are many ways to go about this, but two that are generally accepted as best practice:

  • Location detection: You use the location of a user’s device to set the local language by default.
  • Language selection page: You ask users to select their chosen language and then direct them to the relevant version of your site.

The problem with location detection is it assumes each user speaks the local language, which may not always be true. So make sure you have a prominent option to change the default language when taking this approach.

Having a language selection page removes this problem entirely but it creates another one by adding a barrier between users and your website. You need to decide which option is best for your target audience (or better yet, test both).

If you’re not in a position to make that call, go with location detection and add a clear option for users to change the language, in case you get it wrong. You’ll get the website localisation right more often than not by taking this approach.

#3: Multilingual blog content

Don’t forget to include your blog in your multilingual content plans. This means regularly creating content in your target languages but don’t fall into the trap of always translating the same content for every audience.

Ask yourself what content is most relevant to each target market and create unique content for them. The whole point of your blog is to produce useful content and what’s useful will vary, depending on each target audience you have.

#4: Mobile optimisation

Of course, this is important for any website but the demands you have to meet are even higher when you go multilingual. For many of us, our mobiles are the first device we turn to for access to the internet but many users around the world only use mobile. So make this a priority – especially if you’re targeting any “mobile-only” markets.

#5: Internationalisation

Contact pages are a common trap for multilingual websites. Your address, phone numbers and various other details will be presented differently, depending on the target market. The same goes for times and dates on your blog and any references you make to currencies.

This becomes even more important if you’re selling products on your site. In this case, everything down to the delivery times you list will need to be internationalised to match the local market.

#6: Localised graphics and images

One of the most common mistakes seen on multilingual websites is failing to localise graphics and images. You don’t want to show pictures of westerners using your products to users in China for example. At least, this is the general rule (feel free to test both options and prove it wrong.)

A particularly common trap is using culturally insensitive icons. The classic example is using national flags to represent languages – eg: a Spain flag for Spanish. Except you’re being pretty insensitive to all the Spanish speakers in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and numerous other nations.

In these cases it’s best to use text labels (ESP, EN, etc.) to avoid any issues. Something that may be less obvious is using a globe icon next in your language selector. Choose icons without maps on them to avoid prejudice.

This is how detailed you need to be when it comes to website localisation; every design element has to be re-evaluated to ensure it’s suitable for each market you’re targeting.

#7: Multilingual SEO

You want your site to rank well for searches in all languages and this means mastering multilingual SEO. Of course, it’s hard enough mastering search optimisation in one language, let alone ten. Unfortunately, things get even more complicated when the code, URL structure, server locations and various other factors impact how well your multilingual site performs in search engines.

So get the pros on board nice and early and make sure everything is set up correctly to begin with in order to get the best from your website localisation tools.

#8: Multilingual offsite channels

Your website may be the hub of your online presence but you’re also active on social media, busy with email marketing and using various other channels to connect with prospects. These all need to be multilingual too, if you want to maximise your reach and ROI in each target market.

Above all, you need to provide a multilingual customer service system to cater for your customers in each language. The last thing you want is your reputation suffering because you fail to provide the necessary support in their native tongue.

As you can see, building a multilingual website is a long-term commitment that involves far more than just translation. Posting regular blog content, social media updates, customer service and marketing strategies are all on-going processes. Which is why it’s so important you have a multilingual marketing strategy to keep your brand connected with target audiences in every market on your radar to make the most of website localisation.

Posted on: January 2nd, 2016