The rise of eCommerce in recent years has had a detrimental effect on the high street, however, more and more consumers are turning to the web to fulfil their shopping needs. Businesses trading online need to consider the international reach of their products and services earlier than ever, and with that comes localisation.
According to market researcher Nimdzi, a recent Google survey identified that 40% of the 175,000 internet users surveyed found that a lack of translated content or poorly translated content hindered them in their customer journey. The table below illustrates the geographical split.
Following website translation best practices
Translating websites is more than the words on the page. The following looks at eight key considerations for successful web localisation which we have gathered from our experience in the field.
1. Content management systems
Although you might not think that the infrastructure of your website has anything to do with translation, you’d be mistaken. Language service providers want to find the most seamless and efficient way to manage web content; one which does not rely on the end-client having to mess around manually copy-pasting content from the site.
Your chosen partner is likely to ask you about the content management system (CMS) that you host your website on. There are many ways to automate the export-import of content for translation, but it’s important to discuss this with your provider as some CMSs are more translation-friendly than others.
The technology that can be utilised here includes plug-ins, connectors, APIs and proxy servers to name a few.
2. File formats
In relation to your CMS is the file format(s) in which the content is provided for translation. Some CMSs allow content to be exported as XML, HTML, PO, XLIFF, or other web-based formats, whilst plug-ins and connectors tend to solely work with XML.
The good news here is that CAT tools can process an array of web-based files if the structure is consistent across the site.
An important note here is that any code can be locked so that the translators and reviewers cannot remove important tags or links.
Our advice would be to conduct an initial pseudotranslation test to ensure that all translatable content is being picked up for translation and can be processed by the CAT tool before being imported back to the site. This process would require a few test pages being sent to your partner who will replace the source text with a series of symbols or characters to allow for any issues to be easily identified.
3. Static vs. dynamic content
In our experience we have found that some website content must be handled differently depending on the CMS used. For example, static content, such as navigation menus and contact forms, tends to be hard-coded in the system and cannot be easily exported. There are a few work-arounds here including manually handling this type of content, which is often small in volume, or in the case of contact forms, exported as PO files instead of say XML.
In contrast, dynamic content is content which changes on a regular basis such as products or services, news and blogs, company information, etcetera. This is content which will need to be translated in a timely manner so that you can stay ahead of the competition. To do this, there needs to be a process in place for managing updates to the site. We’ll touch back on this in point eight.
If your website allows customers to make purchases, then there are more than simply the words on the page that need localising. Other things which impact a consumer’s decision to make an international purchase include:
- Payment method
- Delivery options
- Trust anchors
- Local hosting
- Customer reviews/ratings
- International SEO
Before embarking on launching an international website it is advised that you first conduct some market research to understand where there is demand for your products/services, as well as identifying the key players in your industry, in your target countries. The ultimate goal is for your company to appear as local as possible.
5. Images and other media
Images play a very important part online and should also be considered as part of the localisation process.
Any images which contain text will need to be translated to suit the target audience so be sure to create banners, adverts, etcetera with translation in mind. The easier it is to extract the image text the cheaper and quicker the process will be.
The same goes for any video content. It’s important to consider whether your end customers will engage more with video content that has subtitles, dubbing or voice over.
You also need to consider localising the images and models used to suit your target market. If you’re targeting the Middle East, then incorporating local models on your website will result in a much more local experience for your audience and customers. They want to feel like your organisation understands them and their needs better than your competitors.
Another consideration is the number of images used on your site. Chinese and Japanese internet users love busy, vibrant, interactive websites that might look garish to the Western world, however, including animations, lots of graphics and bright colours will appeal to your Asian audience.
Getting your international websites up and running is great, however, you want to ensure that your sites are visible in the local search engines. Internet users behave differently depending on their country of residence and language.
There are local search engines such as Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia), Naver (Korea), and Seznam (Czech Republic) which are more popular than Google in the respective countries.
Then you have the language to consider. If you’re targeting Spanish speakers in Mexico then you need to investigate the search habits of internet users in Mexico as they are likely to use different terms than Spanish speakers in Spain, Peru and Argentina. And there’s no such thing as “Universal Spanish”!
If you’re unsure of the best approach for your business, then speak to your Language Service Provider or look for a digital marketing agency who specialise in international SEO and who only use native speakers to complete the work.
7. Online QA
OK – so you’ve followed the six steps above and your website is ready to launch, but there’s one final step we highly recommend before your site goes live; online QA.
Ideally the online QA should be conducted on a staging/testing site to ensure that any cosmetic, functional or linguistic issues are rectified before the site is accessible to the public.
A native speaker should be recruited for this stage and should either follow a test script prepared in advance or attempt to recreate the customer journey from start to finish. This includes the checkout function. You want to make sure that transactions can be successfully completed and that there are no problems with the payment methods you have chosen.
Once all testing has been completed and the issues ironed out then you’re good to go.
8. Updates and maintenance
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to consider how you’re going to manage your international website(s) moving forward. This should be discussed as part of the initial scope rather than as an afterthought.
Your chosen translation partner can suggest the best workflow for managing translation updates, but a few questions you should ask yourself are:
- Are all products/services going to be available in all target countries?
- How many product launches do you have each year?
- Are you going to update your product/service offerings in all regions at the same time?
- Are you going to launch your new products/services in your home market first slowly followed by your international markets, or all at the same time?
- Do you also plan on localising the blog/news section(s) of your website?
- How frequently do you plan on publishing new content?
By answering these questions then you will be able to work with your chosen partner to devise the best maintenance workflow for your site(s).
As we mention in our post about CAT tools, it’s important to devise the right content re-use strategy for your needs. This is especially important for website updates to speed up turnaround times and reduce costs over time.
Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of the things you should consider when going global, we believe this is a good starting point. To discuss your web translation requirements with a member of the Ultimate Languages team please contact us here.
Enifa moved to the UK from Macedonia in 2011 before completing her postgraduate degree in multilingual information management at The University of Sheffield. After graduating she took on her first translation project management role and very quickly became skilled in handling complex web localisation projects across a variety of sectors. Her problem-solving approach to project management has enabled her to develop close relationships with clients by trying to find the most cost-effective and efficient approaches possible. She is a very quick learner and an incredible teacher. She is responsible for finding and implementing training that will benefit the overall project management team, as well as training new starters.