Not too long ago – 50 years or so -, you didn’t have to worry about a different language. After all, most businesses were lucky to sell outside of their own back yard. Business was primarily a local experience where homegrown shops assumed the common language of their community.
Today, local business is easily expanded across the globe without setting up a devoted building in a new country. However, while the Internet opened up new location possibilities for commerce, expansion included the need to learn new languages. Businesses were stuck with two choices: hire a translator or learn to speak your clients’ languages yourself.
Your business has the ability to use the powerful tool of the Internet to expand internationally from the start, dramatically increasing reach and exposure worldwide. This expansion into other countries translates to online, eCommerce and even website design. So how can you work international marketing into your website?
1) Lost In Translation
If your website targets multiple countries it should at least have a few of the major languages available, and that means translations. It’s important to first establish how you’ll translate those pages. There are two basic options: software and humans. Using software can be an inexpensive solution, but it tends to have unpredictable accuracy. Google Translate, for example, often creates awkward interpretations that look unprofessional and confusing.
A human translator may cost more, but you get what you pay for here. A good translator will be able to interpret the meaning of your words from one language into another with much more accuracy than software. Using a human creates a much more professional and appealing look overall.
If you’ve been using a website builder program instead of using in-house design, you may want to consider converting. Even in one language, builders have many frustrating limitations. Adding additional languages to a website may require more than the site builder offers. Creating the site in-house can be costly, but provides a lot more control over user experience.
3) Language Is Optional
Visitors can accidentally stumble across your website in any language you offer. Adding visible language options to your header, footer or even the menu can prevent discouraged users from going elsewhere. The most common way to add language selection is to use a drop down menu, but requiring a default language selection for first-time visitors is another useful method to consider.
4) Attention To Detail
There are many small details that make a big difference to user experience. For starters, choosing font characters and sizes compatible with your translations keeps your site layout professional in any language. Take care to alter layouts that support right-to-left languages as well. Other details to consider are date format and international contact information such as phone numbers or addresses.
Keep in mind that international cultures may not understand or even be offended by certain phrases or concepts you may take for granted. This detail is especially important if you use translation software.
5) Behind The Scenes
As you program your site, a few programing aspects help everything run more smoothly. For example, one language per page can prevent crawler confusion and preserve ranking. If you go with a default language page, redirect the user to the page they were trying to view for continuity. Make use of codes such as ccTLD to limit certain pages to be viewed by a particular country, or gTLD for subdomains or subdirectories to use geo targeting. Another factor to consider is language coding for braille or screen reader services so the language selection can affect those services as well.
Branching beyond single language publishing takes a lot of planning and analysis. With this opportunity comes a heavy responsibility to setup a smooth experience for such a varied audience. Taking the time to develop your language delivery method for the long term will make each additional language easier than the last. Even adding a second language can be challenging, but will pave the way to creating a truly international brand.