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5 Tips for launching a multi-lingual website

Launching a website in one language is a challenging ordeal. But launching a multi-lingual website can bring a whole set of new trials and tribulations. For any business looking to take advantage of the global reach of the internet, having the ability for your audience to view your site in their language is essential. It has even become expected by most Internet users. Not doing so risks alienating your audience and turning off potential customers. Having a multi-lingual team to help translate and edit can make it easier to establish processes and plans for globalizing your website. In my case I’m lucky I did have that team as it saved me countless headaches. Through my website launch I encountered some obstacles I had to overcome and I hope these five tips will help you through your launch.

1. Research

Before you take on the huge step of designing a multi-language website, make sure to do some research to determine the languages that will best reach your target audience. By using Google Analytics, review your current sources of traffic. Where are your current sales coming from? What about your prospects? This sort of information can surprise a business and may be quite different than you expected. Too often businesses make a decision on which languages they want based on where they want to be, not where their audience already is. The more you know about your audience the better for your bottom line as choosing the wrong languages in which to translate your website may be a costly mistake.

2. Translations

Translations can often cause the most trouble as it isn’t always a one-for-one translation from one language to another. Having a translation team or company that can not only translate, but make grammatical changes, is essential to ensure your message is clear in each language. I hope this goes without saying, but do not rely on mainstream translators for your site. These are notoriously inaccurate (especially with grammatical phrases) and can lead to completely incorrect translations.

3. Design

Do not be discouraged if you need to redesign certain portions of your website to accommodate different languages. Each language is different and the design of the website may have to change from language to language. The most common example of this is if a website is going to be translated into Russian or Chinese. Cyrillic and Chinese characters typically have longer text than Latin-based languages, so in smaller areas the design may need to change to accommodate the text. With these being popular emerging markets for e-commerce businesses, many web designers will come across this and have to redesign portions of their pages to accommodate appropriately. You may also need to design a website to cater to languages that are read in different manners than left to right. Languages such as Arabic and Persian have to be designed to read right to left instead.

4. Language Selector

As I mentioned earlier, most Internet users are accustomed to having the ability to change the language of their website. Being able to switch from language to language is an appealing feature for your users. This allows all users to have the ability to manually change the language if the default that comes up in their region is not the language they would wish to use. For example, a German-speaking user may be in China while visiting your site. Even though your website would load the Chinese language based on server location or browser settings, the user will want to change over to the German language version of your site. Offering language selector functionality gives the shopper a much better user experience.

5. Color Palette

This may seem a little strange to many, but pay attention to the color palette of your website. When designing a multi-language site, you need to ensure the color scheme reflects your brand and at the same time doesn’t have a negative connotation for certain cultures. For example, the color green signifies religion for many middle-eastern countries. And in China, color is most often associated with death or mourning. Make sure your colors are broad and align with your brand so you do not risk offending shoppers from different cultures.

We live in an increasingly connected world that practically requires companies to cater to global audiences. Even though creating a multi-lingual website is a challenging, complex project, it is definitely worth the time and effort required to localize your website.  Also, spring is here, so check out our blog on Spring cleaning your website.

If you follow the tips I’ve provided here, you will be rewarded with results. What have your experiences been with designing a multi-lingual website? Let us know in the comments section below!

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