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A Guide to Multilingual Website Development

A Guide to Multilingual Website Development A Guide to Multilingual Website Development June 5th, 2018

If you’re reading this blog, chances are your business or website has reached the point where you’re thinking about translating content and reaching a multilingual audience. Thinking about your content strategy, SEO, user experience and the full gamut of development challenges can ultimately leave you with more questions than answers. From researching different multilingual strategies to reaching out to freelancers and agencies, it can seem pretty overwhelming the amount of work and detail that goes into reaching a diverse audience.

To help, we’ve put together our list of essential areas we address with our clients when discussing multilingual websites or mobile applications. No two businesses or websites are alike but reviewing key areas like these with your team is a great way to ensure your project is kept on track and on budget.

Content Development

As you know, content is one of the most influential and talked about subjects when it comes to web development. From SEO to delivering essential info, content is the glue that holds together your site and helps users achieve their goals. When refining your website for a multilingual audience, content takes on a whole new challenge.

When approaching content in different languages for different cultures, you need to take into consideration every individual component. Text, logos, videos, and even navigation buttons need to be displayed in way that’s both logical and understandable for your audience. Simply sending page content through Google Translate isn’t an effective method to ensuring content meets the needs of an audience.

To accommodate users speaking different languages you need a professional translator to ensure content is portrayed appropriately for specific audiences. For example, if you’re updating your site for a Canadian audience, using an automated platform to translate your site to French will not be 100% effective. Many platforms can’t distinguish between regional dialects and preferences such as Parisian French and French Canadian. While many of the words will translate correctly, several phrases might come across as awkward or difficult to understand.

Taking the additional step to ensure navigation buttons, CTAs and even page layouts make sense to your audience is essential. For example, some languages aren’t read left to right. Some languages are read right to left and the page layout is organized to meet this orientation. Also, simple phrases like “Take it to the next level” might be difficult for different cultures to understand even when translated correctly.

You need to have a firm understanding of the cultural nuances of your target market and adjust your content accordingly. This will help alleviate confusion and reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, creating a better user experience for your audience.

User Experience

Having a beautifully translated website is nothing if your target audience isn’t able to use it effectively. When going multilingual, websites usually have one of two ways of delivering translated content. Some websites will use IP tracking to determine a user’s location and select the appropriate language based on their country of origin. Others usually have a navigation button in the header that allows the audience to choose their preferred language.

At VIG, we recommend using both. This allows content to be delivered in a language that’s appropriate for the region but also allow users to select a language they are comfortable with. Giving users this option will allow your site to be more accommodating to a wider range of users.

In relation to content, you need to consider the specific font and font color you use as well. Certain fonts are tailored to specific languages. When having your website translated, it’s important to review the readability of the final text and take into consideration how the font/color will be displayed on different browsers and devices. This will help ensure content is accessible to your users.

One of the hottest topics related to user experience and SEO is the concept of page speed. Page speed relates to how quickly site content loads in a browser and displays on a device. When developing multilingual sites to deliver content across multiple regions, we recommend hosting the site on a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

CDNs work as a group of distributed servers that improve the delivery time of content to users in different locations. With CDNs, users are able to have content sent to them quickly from local servers instead of receiving pages and content from a local server in the United States. The system speeds up loading times of websites and greatly improves both the user experience and SEO of your site.

Privacy & User Laws

Anytime you do business on an international level, it’s critical you understand the governing laws and regulations around your industry. For websites specifically, there are a series of privacy regulations websites are required to adhere to when handling user data in European countries. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect later this month covers everything from how websites will be allowed to cookie user data, collect info on contact forms, even store user data.

Fines for non-complying websites can be up to severe (4% of a company’s yearly revenue). By not taking regulatory laws like this into consideration, you are leaving your site open to significant external risk from both a legal standpoint but also a brand reputation standpoint as well. Users in other regions viewing your content and submitting data are often less likely to trust brands whose sites do not comply with critical security and regulatory laws. The effects can be decreased sales, brand dilution, or even fines.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO has been an industry buzzword for years. Whether you’re a local manufacturer or a multi-national retailer, adjusting your pages and content so users can find your site easily on SERPs is essential. When handling multilingual content, SEO takes on an additional level complexity.

Sitting down with a developer and taking a close look at everything from your URL structures and subdirectories of the site to tagging each page will greatly help your SEO. A common rule of thumb for distinguishing multilingual pages of your site is adjusting the geotargeting settings on Google’s Search Console. This allows you to clearly label pages for different languages with language identifiers.

If you have multiple versions of pages in different languages, canonicalizing duplicate content will also help Google crawl and index pages you uniquely specify. Furthermore, talking with an SEO professional about alt, meta, and other associated tags will certainly give you a helpful boost as well.

Refining your website for a multilingual audience or building a custom solution is a huge undertaking. From translating content to ensuring the user experience is friendly for all users, putting together an effective plan can seem overwhelming. At VIG we’ve worked with clients in every sector and industry to deliver websites that fit both their needs and the needs of their users. If you’re interested in putting together a multilingual website for your business but aren’t sure where to start, Think VIG!