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Expert advice for an exceptional multilingual website

Many companies want to expand their horizons globally, by growing their business into new regions, and this means dealing with language barriers – or as we prefer to think of them, language opportunities.

Digital marketers, customer relations managers, and of course developers all want to create an exceptional multilingual user experience (UX) every bit as good as the original version. The reasons are obvious, you retain all your original branding, the messaging, and product or service information, and that literally translates to new customers.

How? Well, the simple answer is through seamless navigation, easy to access functionality, and by guiding your users intelligently through your site with a design optimized for localization.

The most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve these goals is by working in partnership with a professional translation agency. Tomedes, a leading translation agency, is uniquely positioned to give insights for multilingual website localization. They’ve localized websites for many companies, creating a strong online presence for these consumers.

So here are the key insights from our research to ensure the great lengths you’ve gone to in creating a user-friendly, high-quality, SEO-ready website aren’t simply lost in translation.

Plan to be consistent.

With good management planning, utilizing your cross-department expertise, and putting the customer first in your multilingual website design, you can give your customers a consistent experience no matter the language, or the culture. Language should never be a barrier, but an opportunity to reach a new audience.

Where to start? With a global template.

Global templates help your regional marketing teams to create content to match the preferences of your local customers. They also help your web development team or your translation agency to manage multiple versions of the sites. In addition, flexible templates help your business when dealing with design changes, quality assurance, maintenance, or when adding new features. Here are some templates to work with.

Having a dynamic template can help you accommodate the challenges of how different languages are read on-screen. For instance, we are used to reading left-to-right down the page in the West. East Asian sites often feature bidirectional reading (often referred to as multi-byte characters to comply with ASCII standards). Hebrew, Urdu, Farsi, and languages that use the Arabic script have a right-to-left reading orientation. So planning ahead for efficient flexible sites can really save you both time and extra costs in the long term.

Build a global gateway for your global audience.

You’ve designed your global templates and ensured they are consistent. Now you are ready to grow your brand and extend your reach in a multilateral way across borders, using your website. You can also tap a translation agency to build your global audience.

How? Build your global gateway.

This is your top-level navigation hub that directs people to all the different localized and multilingual versions of your sites. The design and SEO for your gateway are important considerations too – you don’t want people to land on the wrong language version, or find it really difficult to get search results for their preferential version of the page either.

“There are better ways than using country flags or English text tabs to represent localized languages for a global gateway,” says William Mamane, the CMO of Tomedes. “The best practice we advise our multinational clients to use is to add the names of every supported language in the customers’ native language. So, instead of writing “Italian, Spanish, French”, have the text or graphics show “Italiano, Española, Français.”

Also take note that there are different countries with two or more local languages to consider, such as Belgium; the three official languages being Dutch, French, and German.

Prepare your e-commerce site for international currencies and shipping rules.

Early in your web development, before your online business goes live and starts selling and shipping internationally, you should become familiar with local laws regarding purchases and shipments. You’ll need to modify each of your regional websites for different currencies, exchange rates, and shipping address formats.

Taking the European Union (EU), for example, most countries in the trading bloc use the Euro. Though several don’t. These include Poland (the zloty), Hungary (the forint), the Czech Republic (the Czech crown), and Sweden (the krona).

Also, don’t forget to format your regional time and date conventions to support international variations for estimating shipping when completing orders and sending out receipts.

Study your graphic design and customize the images, design, and video to be culturally appropriate in your localization.

The way we view art is always subjective. So is the way different customers experience and relate sites after translation and react to media content: videos, photographs, graphics, icons, labels, even colors.

Content and designs that we think of as stylish, or cute, could be offensive in other cultures, politically insensitive, or even blasphemous. It is better to err on the side of caution and avoid using religious symbols, specific animals, hands, feet, or emoticons. The same is true for stock photographs of people, places, and situations. Videos and multimedia should be quality assured for their audio, dubbing, subtitling, and overall messaging. Do as much research as you can and fact-check with local vendors to ensure you don’t make the national news for all the wrong reasons.

The perception of the meaning of color varies widely from culture to culture. People claim the most culturally accepted color is blue. Perhaps, this is due to blue being as familiar as nature, the sea, and the sky.

A globe for a global gateway! Right? Not so fast…

Looking at blue, what could be truer or bluer than a globe to represent our planet? Even that depends on where you are in the world. Most globes used in logos and website graphics feature by default North and South America. It may be better to go with a solid color circle, a wireframe, or a 3D lit ball, without any continents, or regions, specifically indicated.

It’s a good rule of thumb to use to avoid embedding text in your designs. It makes translating the text more difficult than it should be, and could mean scrapping and recreating your files. It is more desirable to have your web developers overlay text onto your graphics in the HTML – and being customizable will help streamline your localization quality assurance too.

In Conclusion

This article helps you understand the essential requirements for creating an exceptional website experience for your overseas non-English speaking customers. However, it is by no means conclusive; consider these top tips and insights. To really optimize your online global growth, your business should partner with a language services provider that shares your vision and understands the cultural and linguistic diversity of your target markets.

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