If you’re a business targeting visitors in non-English-speaking countries, providing multi-lingual sites is probably a necessity. Or, you may just see it as a nice-to-have that could potentially bring additional leads or revenue. Either way, building multi-lingual sites comes with its own set of challenges and considerations; it’s not as simple as clicking “translate”.
In this article we go through the main multi-lingual website best practices you should keep in mind when building foreign-language sites, to ensure that they are as optimal as possible. The most important aspect? To provide your foreign-language visitors with the same user experience as your English-speaking ones. Here are our top 7 tips:
Although using Google Translation may seem like a convenient idea, you could really alienate your visitors if your content doesn’t make sense or if it’s confusing. So even if you decide to largely translate content through a software, always make sure you get a language professional to review it before publishing it on your site. Only in this way will foreign-language visitors get the same understanding of your conent as English-speaking ones.
Simply translating your content is not going to deliver the same SEO results as on your English site. Why? Because often different SEO rules apply to different countries.
There are several things you can pay attention to when adjusting your SEO:
One of the most common mistakes when building multi-lingual sites is not providing the same user experience across them. This can lead visitors to feel like they’re missing out on key information if they’re using a non-English site.
It’s therefore very important to ensure that different sites look consistent and give visitors confidence that they are all reliable. A way of doing this is to use global templates across all sites, ensuring that they all have the same look and content. Global templates can also help you reduce your design efforts and costs significantly, and make it a lot easier to maintain web updates across sites.
The most important part is that all sites provide the same features and functionality, so all your visitors get the user experience they expect and require.
Just like it’s necessary to have a translator to ensure your translations make sense in whatever language, the same applies to images and icons. Are they relevant, appropriate and respectful to the culture in question?
This will require a level of knowledge or research on your part to ensure that you avoid images that could be offensive or uncomfortable to your audience. The aim is to connect with your visitors and provide them with an online experience that makes them feel positive about your brand.
There is nothing more annoying than trying to find the functionality to change a site’s language and being unable to locate it. And believe me, if it’s too hard to find it, your visitors will just leave.
Access to multi-lingual sites should be clearly available in the locations where your visitors expect to find it: the top right of your global navigation bar and the site’s footer.
If you are only offering one language other than English, for example Spanish, you could simply include a button saying “En español”. If you are providing multiple foreign-language sites, a drop-down box is a more intuitive solution.
The checkout process is an often overlooked aspect of multi-lingual sites that requires attention too. Some eCommerce providers already provide country-relevant checkout functionality, but even if yours does, always ensure that it includes:
Finally, a challenge that many companies experience when translating sites is text expansion. Text translated from English into foreign languages often expands because of different grammar and syntax rules. For example, English text translated into Spanish expands by approximately 25%.
What this means is that, especially when using global templates, you may encounter difficulties fitting all content in on your foreign-language sites, so it’s important to plan ahead for this. Cutting down copy may seem appealing, but it should never mean that less information is available to your visitors. Ultimately, dealing with text expansion will involve a combination of trying to cut down your content and tweaking your design without making any major changes to the users' experience.
Do you know of any multi-lingual website best practices we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!
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