If you’re looking to expand the appeal of your website to multiple countries, you’ll need to translate the content into several different languages. But how exactly do you go about doing that? And how can you ensure that your translation will be successful?
As long as you pay attention to these four website translation best practices, you can be confident that you’ll end up with a site that is both accurate and effective in every language.
1) Choose a Quality Method of Translation
You have a few options when it comes to the translation method for your website. Many sites use machine translation because it’s fast and easy, but it’s also the least accurate. Companies that rely solely on machine translation frequently find themselves in embarrassing and often reputation damaging situations.
To ensure that your website translation is accurate and speaks directly to your targeted audience, you should invest in a professional website translator or translation agency. Yes, the overhead will be greater than if you simply used a free online service, however, the return in investment will more than make up for any initial costs.
If you’re a smaller company and on a very tight budget you should, at the very least, hire a professional translator to proofread the translations you get from any translation software you use.
2) Translate Content to the Right Languages
There are so many languages in this world that it’s just not practical to translate your website into all of them. Instead, pick a few key languages to focus on. Some of the most popular languages to start with include Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Japanese, Italian and Portuguese.
Of course, there might be other languages that are more appropriate for you site — it all depends on your target audience. If you’re not sure which language is ideal for you, a great starting point is to take a look at where your current users are accessing your website. If people keep opening it in a specific country, you might have just discovered a new market.
3) Make It Easy for Readers to See Their Preferred Language
Your next step is to ensure that readers are quickly met with text in the language they can read. Make it easy for them by placing the language menu at the top of the page, where it’s clearly visible and easy to click on.
You can even set up your website so that it automatically detects each reader’s location and chooses the prevalent language for the area. Of course, you should still make it possible for readers to change the language in case they don’t speak the same language as the majority in their area.
Whichever option you choose, make sure your website remembers the language preferences. This way, readers will see content in their preferred language right away every time they visit your website.
4) Select the Right Format for Each Language
Lastly, when translating your website, make sure you pay attention to the different formatting requirements used in each language. For example, in French, the calendar date is listed with the day first followed by the month and year (i.e. day/month/year) as opposed to the customary month/day/year format used in the US.
You’ll also want to make sure phone numbers and addresses are properly formatted for each language. Otherwise, readers might not be able to contact you and you could loose out on potential sales. Additionally, while English speaking countries read websites in an F-shape pattern, paying attention mostly to what’s located on the left side, this is not the case for countries where languages such as Arabic (which is read right to left) persist.
These four best practices will help you get the website your readers deserve, improving their chances of visiting it frequently and increasing your chances of forming lasting user relationships.