Take Over the World with These Website Translation Best Practices
There is more to multilingual websites than simple A-to-B translations. You must stay on your toes when it comes to producing culturally appropriate content, giving users the option to view your site in their preferred way, and avoiding faux pas. Here are some website translation best practices to keep in mind:
1. Allow Your Users to Choose Their Preferred Language
If you were to build a website targeting the United States, you would probably want it to be in English because everyone speaks English in the U.S., right? We all know this isn’t true. In fact, according to a recent article from The Guardian, there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than there are in Spain.
You want all visitors to your website to feel welcome and to be able to access the content in their preferred way. Sure, you want to default to the most common language used in a geographic area, but you must make it easy for users to switch language preferences.
If you want to go above and beyond, you can remember the language preferences of your visitors so they won’t have to choose their language every time they visit your site. This will improve the user experience.
2. Each of Your Websites Should Have Equal Functionality
Startups that strive to treat consumers in each market equally tend to have the most success with website translation. They view themselves as a global enterprise with local clients, instead of a domestic business with foreign users.
The functionality, content, and design of the website rely on the philosophy that a user in Montana will have the same experience as a customer in Germany. Of course, it may not always be possible for you to provide this uniform experience.
If your budget or practical considerations make it difficult for you to offer an equal experience for all users, own up to it. For instance, you might point out that your Thai site is abridged and not fully functional. This will manage user expectations.
3. Choose the Best Website Translation Solution for Your Needs
Non-professional human translation, computer translation with online or software translating tools, and professional human translation are just a few of the many methods used to translate a website. As tools for translation, each of these methods has their pros and cons.
In their article on the “Top 10 Best Practices for Multilingual Websites,” the U.S. Government’s DigitalGov recommends avoiding automatic or machine translations, such as Google Translate. Even if you provide a disclaimer that the site was automatically translated, it can still hurt your brand.
If you do decide to go with machine translation, you should still have the translation reviewed by a qualified language professional. Or, you can just skip all of this hassle and work with a language service provider who can take care of all of your needs.
4. Cultural Considerations Should Be Part of Your Website Translation
A lot more goes into an excellent user experience than simply making sure your website is in the language that best suits your visitors. Website translation best practices include providing culturally appropriate content for the target audience.
If you want to achieve the all-important emotional connection with your demographic, the online experience must be culturally relevant.
Let’s turn to the government for another example, USA.gov and its Spanish-language counterpart GobiernoUSA.gov have the same look and feel. The big difference is that the Spanish site has images and content that people in the Hispanic community can identify with.
5. Do Not Forget to Translate Your URLs
Another one of the website translation best practices is ensuring the site will show up high in search engine results. You can improve your SEO by making sure you use web addresses, or URLs, that are translatable and readable by search engines in your target markets and languages.
What does this look like? For one, you need to be sensitive to the search engine that your target audience is using. Here in the U.S., most people use Google. But, in Korea, Russia, and China, other search engines are much more popular.
In-country hosting services and a country-coded top-level domain (ccTLDs) will also show foreign markets that you are catering to their needs. SEO powerhouse Moz goes into more detail about why ccTLDs matter.
6. Avoid Presenting Language Options Using Flags
If you only use a country flag to denote what languages are available, many users will get confused about what language they are picking. For instance, the Spanish flag may not be recognizable to everyone living in Spanish-speaking countries.
Another problem with using flags is that it may be geopolitically or culturally insensitive. For example, your Chinese users may be put off by a Taiwan flag. Avoid a kerfuffle by just using language alternatives that are simple to understand.
Accelingo is well-versed in website translation best practices and can help you resonate with a global audience.