Guest post by Venga Global
Creating an easy-to-use, attractive website is one of the best ways to interact with your customers. When your website has users around the globe, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how to get your message to your audience. It can be easy for your message to get lost in translation, or for the back-end design of the website to look different from country to country.
Whether your website is a sales portal or a social media site, localizing it to seamlessly blend with the culture, language, and context is always a good strategy. Localizing a website involves more than just translating the language, though—it often involves localizing elements you may not have thought about. Below, we’ve gathered the top elements to consider when localizing your website for a global audience.
Users want to read and interact with websites that seem naturally designed in their own language. Three-quarters of customers prefer to spend most of their time on websites in their own language, and over half think reading in their own language is more important than price, according to the Harvard Business Review. Localizing your website’s language is the biggest way to keep your users coming back for more.
There are a few ways to localize the language on your website. An older model is to provide a toggle bar where users can switch to their preferred language, but those features can be hard to find and drive users away from the site. You could also detect a user’s browser language and store their preferences in a cookie or local HTML storage, but some countries require you to notify users if you’re storing data. If you decide to use this method, make sure you have someone on your localization team who knows the country’s language laws!
The most common, and probably the easiest, way to localize a website’s language is to build that capability in from the beginning. When designing a website for a global audience, we recommend using a platform that uses a single source website to produce localized dynamic proxies (we’ll shamelessly plug our WebToGlobal platform here). Building a website that integrates a localization portal and a website developer saves you the trouble of maintaining a family of distinct websites. With any necessary localization done on the back-end, users around the world can see a version of your website in their own language without needing to store data or flip a switch.
When you’re localizing your website, don’t forget to translate any buttons, links, and instructions too!
Now that you’ve localized all the text on your website, you want to make sure that it looks good and fits your brand’s character. Choosing the right font goes a long way to making a website look like it was designed in a local language. When localizing fonts, there are two big things to keep in mind: making sure the font is visible and ensuring it’s spaced appropriately.
Many fonts, especially custom-designed fonts, don’t translate well into other countries’ code and can sometimes produce false characters. To avoid this, we recommend choosing fonts with the right UTF-8 designation, which should enable the fonts to appear on 90% of sites worldwide.
Given the difficulty of shifting between Latin fonts and Asian ideograms on websites, and the fact that many Asian websites use a combination of Asian and Latin type, it can be difficult to find a font that matches your style across websites. To help solve this problem, Google and Adobe have developed fonts like Noto Sans that will read beautifully to users around the world.
When translating out of English, keep in mind that your word length may shift dramatically. It’s important to design a website with enough space to accommodate longer or shorter localizations. Font choice also makes a difference here. For example, if you’ve chosen a wide font, the spacing may look great in English but feel cramped when translated to German. On the other hand, Chinese characters are more detailed and need a taller space to be legible. Designing a website with your target country in mind will help you give your fonts the space they need.
Once your words are taken care of, it’s important not to forget your images. If you’re using automated translation technology, any text in images, subtitles, or embedded text won’t be localized automatically. Luckily, this problem is easily avoided: you can leave text out of your images altogether, or create your images as SVG files so that your localization team can easily translate them.
And if you’ve successfully localized your images and embedded text, it’s still a good idea to check if the image is culturally appropriate or relevant. A stylish photo or professional scene might be ok in one country but accidentally give offense in another. So working with an in-country expert can help you avoid any pitfalls!
- International SEO
Now that your website is ready for users around the globe, you want to make sure they can actually find it. This is where a good multilingual SEO strategy comes in, and multilingual SEO processes can get super-technical super-fast.
To help your end-users find your website easily, you need to use the local keywords and search technologies that a country uses. For example, not every country is as heavily dominated by Google as the US is. Google has significant competition in China, Japan, and Korea, and so any optimization should also apply to other major search engines like Baidu, Yahoo Japan, and Naver.
And then there’s the back-end coding and sitemapping tools to optimize your website. You can use hreflang attributes, localized URL directories, and ccTLD (country code top-level domain) to indicate the target countries for your website and communicate with search engines.
Finally, you’ll need to build high-quality inbound links from reputable sites in your target country. This is where some cultural knowledge will come in handy: a little research into media, thought leaders, and high-traffic sites will point you to the relevant sites. A strong network of inbound links will show users your credibility and drive traffic to your site. Taking the time to invest in multilingual SEO strategies, just as you would for domestic campaigns, is a necessary part of creating a functional localized website.
- Translation Technology
If all these steps start to sound overwhelming, you’re not alone: localizing websites can be a slow, involved process. Luckily, there are lots of platforms out there to help automate and streamline the localization process. At Venga Global, our platform WebToGlobal helps you quickly set up, localize, and maintain websites around the world, all from a single source website. Another option is online platforms that integrate with your existing content management systems.
Choosing a localization partner that can leverage the best translation and automation technologies is an efficient and cost-effective way to create and build a global website. We, of course, would be happy to provide services for any of the above items. Feel free to contact us if you would like to know more.