How should your website translation be organized?
The website of any international company should be translated into the languages of all countries where the goods or services of this company are sold. The easiest and almost free way to make a site multilingual is to use automatic translation, for example Google.
However, the bounce rate percentage (percentage of users leaving the site without scrolling down) in this case will be extremely high, which can adversely affect the site’s position in search engines.
In addition, the accuracy of the transmission of meaning will be approximate and will constantly change depending on the updates of the machine translation engine. Such a translation may mislead the user and certainly will not contribute to strengthening the image of the company.
Therefore, most companies decide to localize their websites with the help of professionals. In this article, we have compiled general web localization recommendations based on HI-COM’s many years of working experience.
STEP 1. DECIDE ON THE LANGUAGE LIST FOR YOUR WEBSITE TRANSLATION
About 26% of Internet users account for English. An increase in the number of website language versions will lead to increased attendance, but will increase sales only if the company is ready to work with customers from these countries.
A support service, a sales department communicating in these languages, and new branches will play a crucial role in lead conversion. Performing localization “just in case” in most cases does not make sense.
STEP 2. AGREE ON THE FINAL OPTION OF THE SITE’S ORIGINAL CONTENT AND DETERMINE WHICH SECTIONS OF THE SITE WILL BE LOCALIZED
The cost of changing the text of the site increases in direct proportion to the number of language versions of this site. Often, at the end of a project, a translation company will find a long list of typos, logical contradictions, inconsistencies, etc. noted in the source text of the site.
Not all such inconsistencies can be resolved by the translator without the participation of the customer, or when the customer finalizes the site’s content after the start of the translation.
All this leads to confusion and significantly increases the terms of work on the project.
It’s vital to estimate the project budget. Is it really necessary to translate the entire site content or can it be limited to individual pages? Do the “News”, “Articles”, “Reviews” sections need to be translated?
STEP 3. DECIDE ON THE STRUCTURE OF THE WEBSITE AND THE VOLUME OF TECHNICAL WORK REQUIRED
A. How will multilingualism be implemented?
You can organize language versions of a site in the following ways:
– Domains with the same name in other zones (yoursite.ru, yoursite.de, yoursite.fr, etc.);
– subdomains with language designation (ru.yoursite.ru, de.yoursite.ru);
– directory with language identifier (yoursite.ru/de/);
- Substitution of content.
The first method is the most difficult and costly. Some domains may be busy and will have to be redeemed.
Changing the design or features will require edits on each site. At the same time, this method gives the greatest freedom for localization.
The structures of individual sites will not be tightly interconnected. In addition, each site will be separately indexed and ranked by search engines independently from others.
A multilingual site using a subdomain is technically no different from using a separate domain for each language, so this method is only advisable to use if it is not possible to purchase all the required domains.
A directory with a language identifier is the most common and easiest way to implement a multilingual interface. Many site management systems have free or low-cost plug-ins (such as WPML for WordPress) to implement this option.
In some systems (for example, Joomla), such a plug-in is already built into the basic functionality. All the advantages and disadvantages of this method are related to the fact that you still have one whole website.
This can, for example, cause difficulties when work on the site’s content is decentralized – for example, when different branches of the company are responsible for each language version.
The option with substitution of content is used extremely rarely due to the negative impact on website promotion. Pages in different languages in this case may have the same URL, headings, keywords, which will negatively affect their promotion.
B. Will the structure of all language versions of the website coincide?
The need for different structures with separate language versions of the site can be caused by various factors: delivery or order features, or legal features (for example, different requirements for the protection of personal data). Assortment of goods, promotions, and news may vary.
C. Will the functionality of all language versions of the site coincide?
Creating a multilingual website can lead to an extension of the functionality: automatic conversion of prices into different currencies (units), changing the format of dates, etc.
D. Is website design suitable for multilingualism?
Text in different languages can vary significantly in graphical terms. If the site design was developed for languages based on hieroglyphs or characters (for example, Korean or Chinese), then most likely it cannot be used without modifications, for example, the German version of the site. Long German text just doesn’t fit inside buttons.
Refinement of the design may also be required in case of localization in languages with reverse (RTL / LTR) writing direction (for example, Arabic or Hebrew), where it will be necessary to arrange the main modules in a mirror.
E. Are there any editable sources for all audiovisual materials (diagrams, graphs, videos, presentations)?
The lack of editable files can significantly increase the cost and timing of layout work.
In addition, if the text or subtitles are part of a bitmap image, either the image below them will be lost when replacing the text (the translated text will be placed in the “text box” with a background fill), or you will have to pay for the long-term work of manually rendering these parts of the image.
F. Flags or languages?
Flags symbolize countries, but not languages. It is necessary to use them very carefully to indicate the language versions of the site so as not to confuse or offend the user.
If the flags of the United Kingdom or the United States do not mislead the user, then many of the more rare languages cannot be denoted by flags.
For example, the flag of which country should be designated to Arabic, Hindi, Persian, etc.?
When using language names, it is very important not to indicate them in the main language of the site, i.e. instead of “German” and “Chinese”, indicate “Deutsch” and “中文”.
G. Is the site encoding suitable for displaying content in different languages?
If the project will use not only Latin or Cyrillic, then there is almost only one option for implementing multilingualism – you need to use Unicode, usually UTF-8.
H. Do I need to try to automatically detect the user’s language?
There are many ways to determine the user’s language and redirect them to the desired language version of the site. It is important to understand that none of these methods is absolutely accurate.
A user, by mistake redirected to the wrong language version, should be able to quickly change it.
J. What page of the site will the user access when switching between languages?
Ideally, switching the language on any page should lead to the opening of the same page in the desired language.
This principle will not work if only part of the materials are translated. Another option is to send the user to the translated home page of the site.
STEP 4. PREPARE TRANSLATION MATERIALS
A. How will the export of the translation and subsequent import of translated pages be carried out? Does it make sense to automate this process?
With small sites you can do without automation by copying the text into an Excel file. It is highly undesirable to use MS Word for these purposes.
Firstly, it is more difficult to structure the content elements and it will be more difficult to search for them and correlate them in different languages (in Excel, no matter how many languages there are, the translation can be entered in the next column).
Secondly, any professional translation company is able to work with HTML markup. If you send an Excel file containing the markup tags in the cells for translation, then all the tags after the translation will remain in their places.
This is achieved with the help of special translation software that blocks tags so that the translator does not accidentally delete them, and also allows you to compare the original and the translation and make sure that all tags are kept in place.
For larger projects, setting up export of content for translation may be an effective solution. This can be done either with the help of modules (for most popular CMS, such modules already exist) or by independently understanding the database structure of the site where the content is located.
B. Check that you didn’t forget anything when submitting website for translation:
– menu items;
– the contents of all modules and plug-ins;
– submitting forms error messages;
– templates of emails sent to the user by the site;
– meta tags and keywords;
– text on images and subtitles for video;
- legally relevant texts (confidentiality agreements, delivery terms, product catalogs, price lists, specifications, etc.).
STEP 5. INTERACTION WITH THE TRANSLATION COMPANY OR SETTING THE TRANSLATION TEAM
Modern translation is a complex, multi-stage process, which, in addition to the translation itself, includes various project preparation and quality control tasks: compilation and approval of a glossary, editing by a second translator, automatic control of formatting compliance, transfer of digital values.
For localization of the site in five languages, for example, a team of 12-15 people may be involved. Managing such a process requires specialized knowledge.
Based on our experience, the customer will not normally be able to significantly save funds by organizing this work on their own.
Be sure to make at least an approximate work schedule. Will all the text be sent for translation at once? Do you plan to regularly translate any other materials (news, audit reports, press releases, etc.)?
Knowing such information will allow the translation company to plan resources, and a more stable team will work on the project, which will positively affect quality.
STEP 6. LINGUISTIC TESTING
After the website translation is completed and the test assembly of the multilingual site is prepared, you can proceed to linguistic testing. Linguistic testing allows you to identify errors that are impossible or extremely difficult to notice in the previous stages of work.
These errors include:
- Semantic errors due to lack of context. Such errors practically do not depend on the competence of the translator, since the translator does not work with text in the shell of the site, but most often receives text uploaded to Excel, where the content elements are not grouped in the way they are grouped on the site pages.
- Distortion of formatting due to the variability of the text length (the text goes beyond the borders of the buttons or its incomplete display).
- Errors with fonts (for example, when the font used does not contain the characters of the desired language).
- Invalid hyperlinks (for example, leading to another language version of the site).
STEP 7. MULTILINGUAL SEO and website translation
Modern search engine optimization is largely a linguistic task. Correctly selected frequency keywords can only be done by a person who is fluent in the target language. Ideally, if the keyword list should be ready before the translation begins. This will save energy and time on processing the content afterwards.
HI-COM is a professional translation and localization agency that serves multinational companies as well as start ups. Our team of professionals is always ready to provide a free consultation and a no-obligation quotation! Contact us if you have any questions!