We truly live in an international society. No matter what country your business operates in, odds are you’ll have an international audience if you’re doing work over the web. When you’re working with a global audience, you have global challenges. The most obvious challenge is language. While English is the most widely-spoken second language, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get by on English alone.
The most spoken languages in the world, in order, include Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, and so on. While it’s true English is very popular, you’ll need to be aware of these other languages if you want to succeed today. Creating a functional, multi-language website isn’t always easy. There’s no one-click solution in modern website builders, so you’ll need to do much of the work on your own.
This guide will help you navigate the tricky world of multi-language websites. You don’t want to isolate any potential customers by not speaking their language. Make sure your top languages are all covered so nothing gets lost in translation.
What Not to Do
Before we jump into the best practices, it’s important to talk about what you should avoid when creating a multi-language website. Bad translations are unprofessional. They show your customers you don’t care about taking their language seriously, and it’ll scare them away quickly.
The biggest mistake is also the simplest solution. When you think about a multi-language solution, you’ll likely jump quickly to Google Translate. The free Google Translate widget for WordPress makes it “easy” to translate your website into your user’s language of choice.
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Google is smart but it’s not that smart. If you’ve ever inputted any type of translation into Google Translate, you know it’s not perfect. It might be enough to get by if you’re traveling abroad, but it’s not enough for a business trying to be taken as professional. Yes, your visitors might get the idea of what you’re trying to say, but you’ll also seem really sloppy.
Professional translations will always be more reliable. A company like Architekst that specializes in translation solutions for businesses would be able to help with making your website copy shipshape.
Now that you know the dangers of Google Translate, let’s get into the best practice. As expected, there’s no easy solution. The main challenge is how to get multi-language menu items onto the same website without crowding your menu bar with 3 versions of the same word in different languages. Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly all have multi-language menu capability, so these are the best page builders to use if you’re planning to DIY your translations.
If you want more control over just what appears on your website and when, you’ll need custom development. The key is to make sure the translations look seamless. They should be simple, accurate, and clean.
Another important thing to keep in mind is international SEO. You want to make it easy for prospective customers in different countries to find your website. This will mean specifying your language targets or a specific location you’re trying to target. Use an expert to help with multilingual keyword analysis. Your go-to keywords might not translate naturally, so don’t assume they’ll be the same.
Ultimately, you’ll need to build your website around translations. That’s why it’s easiest to have a plan in place prior to launching your website. It’s much harder to go back and add multi-language features later, though it’s not impossible. If you only have a few pages that need to be multilingual, you might not choose to translate your entire website. That’s also a good way to save money and time on translations. It will be up to you and your business goals.
You need to find new ways to communicate with your target audience, whether that user lives in your city or across the globe. One of the many challenges of our global community is crossing the language border. Don’t let the design element hold you back. Work with a translation expert to find a clear plan of action to take your website into the global realm. You never know how many new customers you’ll find.