Localization is a necessity if you want to reach markets across borders. However, using machine-based plugins instead of marketing translation services, or including multiple language versions within one site is not the way to reach success. Localization refers to the adaptation of a website content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market.
Clunky translations or detached content won’t generate sales. In fact, it’s actually more likely to push customers towards competitors who have spent the time and money to properly connect with their audience.
To localize your website for multiple languages the right way, follow the steps below.
Getting your timing right is important. On one hand, you don’t want to be so meticulous that it takes you years to launch your site. On the other, it’s a mistake to rush to the extent that you are left with multiple errors and pages that won’t load properly after launch.
Coding and design trends change quickly in our digital world; take too long to build your site and you may be left with one that is incompatible with new advancements.
Engage your stakeholders early on. Copywriters, translators, coders, and designers all need time to build a site that connects with multiple audiences and retains the core messages of your brand. Once the bulk of the work is in place, you can take time to A/B test different versions of pages and change the things that just don’t work.
Understanding your audience is key to designing a website that works for them. You need a firm grasp of current business needs, such as where your customers come from and what are their buyer personas. This enables you to effectively engage with them.
Furthermore, to avoid re-building your website just months after launch, you should also be aware of the markets you are aiming to break into in the near future. Keep track of what language they speak and even relevant holidays that might affect sales.
If you don’t know the answers, you’ll need to carry out some research. In all likelihood, the results will be different for each audience segment, so design with a global audience in mind. This means optimizing the entire user experience so where they are visiting from doesn’t matter.
Regardless of whether or not you begin the translation work straight away, you should be making room for localization – literally.
Each language requires a different amount of space to say the same thing, whether it’s due to a difference in character size or related to the number of words it takes to describe something. As a rule of thumb, French, German, and Portuguese take up roughly 30% more space than English, while other languages take up different amounts.
Other considerations such as text direction – left to right versus right to left or even vertical configurations – will also need to be thought through. This will help you avoid content, banners, and CTA’s appearing broken or unattractive to users in other languages.
Images on your website present two very different problems. Not all pictures and especially colors are interpreted the same across cultures. Images can also have a dramatic effect on the load time for your site pages.
Be selective when choosing images for your website, as not all will be appropriate for every audience. Keeping them to a minimum will help to decrease your website’s load time.
Unicode is standard across the computer industry and while it’s not perfect, it does enable regular depiction of text, regardless of language. By using Unicode characters for all languages you intend to cater for, you are covered by well over a hundred thousand characters which span ninety different scripts.
UTF-8 is the most common character-encoding for Unicode and is becoming the default encoding system for both email and websites. By adopting it for your own website build, you are ensuring your pages are compatible with almost any language.
Hreflang tags are the way you let search engines know your site has similar content in multiple languages, enabling them to direct users to the correct version.
There are various ways in which you can use hreflang tags. You can include them in HTML link elements within headers, HTTP headers, or from your Sitemap. Each of these has different uses, so it is worth reading on the subject to decide which method will best suit your localization needs.
Most search engines take into account your website’s load speed when ranking you in their results pages.
Google wants sites to load in less than a second. It can seem an impossible task to control your site’s load speed when internet speeds across the world vary so widely. Fortunately, that’s not the case; it is possible and what’s more, it’s relatively easy to ensure you are not penalized for load times across borders.
Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) will improve load times and the customer’s experience on your site, something that is especially important for e-commerce. CDNs can be expensive, but the return in terms of streamlining customer purchasing experiences and SERPs makes the investment well worth it. Combined with cutting back on content that takes longer to load will ensure you are not penalized in SERP’s anywhere in the world.
Localizing websites can seem like a massive task, but breaking the process into defined steps and thinking about it from the very start of the build can make it far less daunting.