A multilingual website is the core of any online brand with an international reach. However, when it comes to website localisation there’s far more to it than simply uploading a few pages in each language you want to target.
To get things right, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the whole structure and design of your site. Taking shortcuts will lead to expensive mistakes here are five of the most costly to avoid.
#one: Sloppy translation
Sure we all know you need translated content to build a multilingual website – that much goes without saying. However, not all translation is the same and simply chucking up some content that vaguely resembles Spanish doesn’t cut it.
Don’t fall into the trap of using WordPress translation or any other tools that promise to help you build a multilingual website. Hire a team of human translators with the language skills you need to get website translation done right the first time.
#two: Forgetting about website localisation
Aside from the languages you make available on your site, there may be design and content tweaks necessary for certain markets.
First of all, you’ll need to localise some formatting for phone numbers, addresses, currencies and other details that are presented differently. It’s also a good idea to adapt your visual content for different markets, too. For example, if the UK version of your site has images of London all over the place, you might want to switch to images of the capital city of the country users are visiting from – that’s just good practise when it comes to website localisation.
#three: Ignoring the technical side of going multilingual
There’s a long list of technical aspects to taking a site multilingual and getting any of these wrong could leave your brand invisible in Google and other search engines:
- Domains: Your domain names have a direct impact on how users and search engines access each version of your site
- Website structure: It’s important each version of your websites is set up correctly in relation to each other
- Hosting: Make sure you can handle large volumes of traffic and you have servers in the right locations (US, Europe, Asia, etc.)
- Search engines: Don’t assume Google is the top search engine or the only one worth targeting in each market
- Navigation: Users need to have easy access to your site in their language and be able to change easily
- Fonts: Make sure you have support for the necessary scripts and fonts in each language
- Loading content: You need to deliver translated and localised content in a way that’s fast and intuitive
- Devices: Some markets are “mobile majority”, others “mobile first” and many are now “mobile only” – make sure you know the difference
We could carry on but the point is: you need to take the technical side of going multilingual seriously.
#four: Scrimping on user experience
User experience is vital for any website but your responsibilities are more complex with a multilingual site. Your first job is to make sure your site loads fast and performs smoothly – for all markets, across all devices and for the internet connections available in their location.
That last point is important. Don’t assume everyone is rocking 4G connections, because they won’t be. This isn’t limited to developing markets either; our connectivity in the UK is a bit of a joke outside London as well.
Navigation is a major issue you need to keep on top of too. Switching between different versions of your site should be one click away at all times and you need a site structure that stops people getting lost between broken links, redirects and other loose ends.
Also pay attention to UX design trends in each of your markets because they might not be the same as they are here in the UK.
#five: Not having a multilingual content strategy
Wrapping up our list of most expensive multilingual mistakes when it comes to website localisation is not having a content strategy for each market. Don’t fall into the trap of creating your content in English and then translating it into each language because the content needs will vary across each market.
You’ll also want to localise your content strategy so you’re talking about national holidays, sporting events and other topics of local interest. We may have spent the last few months talking about Christmas here in the UK but many of our friends in Asia are more concerned about the upcoming Lunar New Year in February, for example.
If we could sum up all of these points into one takeaway, it would be that shortcuts are the fastest way to waste money when building a multilingual website. So don’t accept any compromises because your brand will underachieve overseas and you’ll have to pay a premium fee to set things right – that’s the key to good website localisation.