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Best practices for language redirection

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When it comes to enhancing your localization strategy, language redirection is definitely something that you might want to consider. And for many website owners, language redirection is a smart choice.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of how it works and in what ways it can be achieved, you might first be wondering, what exactly is language redirection? Well, putting it simply, language redirection involves the changing of the language a website appears in depending on the user who is viewing it. 

For obvious reasons, this is a pretty practical mechanism to have in place on your own website. Successful language redirection results in your website being accessible to more web-users as the barriers of language are eroded. This point is only further accentuated when we consider that only 25% of internet users are native english speakers

Basically, if you’re not catering to the website visitors’ language, they’re not likely to browse further – let alone make a purchase. So, if you want to enhance your user experience, decrease your bounce rate, and work towards improving conversion rates – keep reading.

What are your options?

When it comes to your language localization strategy, in essence, you have three options: 

  1. Asking User Language/ Geographic region
  2. No redirection strategy
  3. Automatic redirection

While asking the user to manually select their language or geographic location can sometimes be a good option, often it can be off-putting for new visitors to the website.

Furthermore, even if your site is available in multiple languages via a language switcher on your front site, you may choose not to redirect users and have the webpage appear in the original language. While visitors have the option to change the language themselves, sometimes this is not immediately obvious, and can result in a higher bounce rate. 

A much less tedious and user-friendly option is to automatically redirect to alternative languages. And so, this is what we’ll be focusing on in this article. Generally, the language redirection process works in the following way: 

However, within this option you have two choices which you need to be aware of: 

  • Redirection by Browser Language
  • Redirection by IP Address

1. The process happens in the following way: An internet user clicks onto your website – this generates a HTTP Request in microseconds. 

A HTTP Request is essentially an action to be performed on a resource (the server) identified by a request-url (i.e the clicking onto the webpage or typing the URL in the search bar). 

2. The HTTP request is sent to your web server

Included in this HTTP request is information such as user browser language, the IP address of the device making the request, and the user agent which identifies the browser and operating system to the web server. What the server does next depends on the redirection settings you have chosen.

3. The server interprets the information received and based on the settings – will send back the appropriate method of redirection. 

Essentially, if you’ve chosen to redirect by browser language, the server will pick up on the browser language of the visitor during the request. 

If the browser language is french for example, and the url the user clicks on/searches is english:

  • E.g https://randomwebsite.com/contact
  • They will be redirected to https://randomwebsite.com/fr/contact 

Alternatively, if you’ve chosen to redirect on the basis of IP Address (or location), the server will use this information to select the language in which the webpage will be displayed. 

  • E.g take the pretend IP address 113.747.928.181 to be identified as one in Spain
  • User searches https://randomwebsite.com/contact
  • They will be redirected to https://randomwebsite.com/es/contact 

What’s the better choice? 

Both browser language and IP address language redirection can be beneficial when it comes to your localization strategy. However, here at Weglot we have a distinct preference in browser language redirection. In fact, this is the type of redirection we’ve chosen for our own home page and how Weglot works for our users (if they choose to turn this option on). Why so?

The main reason why we prefer to redirect by browser language is because the IP address of a web user doesn’t necessarily correspond to a particular language, rather it corresponds to a country. If we identify an IP address to be in Paris, France for example, and we redirect to the french language version of a site – chances are this will be fine and suit the needs of the user. 

However, what if we take a country like Switzerland for example, where there are 4 official languages – French, German, Italian, Romansh. In scenarios such as these, the IP address is not helpful in identifying which language the website should appear in.  

There’s also another scenario where this can be problematic. Say you are a French speaker travelling in Japan, under this form of redirection the website would show up in the Japanese language version. So when we consider tourists, which is a huge segment of people, IP address redirection is not helpful. 

However, when you redirect by the browser language the web user themselves uses, you can be confident that the version of the site they see is one that they can understand. In this way, redirecting by browser language is a safer bet in this regard. Therefore, if you’re undecided over which method to pick, this is definitely something to consider! 

What if my website isn’t available in the web users language?

Of course with an estimated 6500 languages in the world, it’s most likely not feasible for you to have your website available in every language. However, if you’re using Weglot as your website translation solution, we have a cool feature that might be of interest to you. 

Included in the array of features the Weglot translation solution offers, there is a localization feature “Auto-Switch ” which is essentially a browser language redirecter. Furthermore, if your website isn’t available in the language corresponding to the web users browser language – there is an ‘’Auto-Switch Fallback’’ feature. 

Auto-switch-weglot

This feature allows you to select the language that the webpage will appear in if the browser language of the user is not available. So, if for example, say your website is available in English, French, and Spanish, but your website visitor has their browser settings in German, it might be a good idea to set the fallback language to English as over half of the german population speak English, in comparison, only 15% speak French. 

Conclusion

Language redirection is a huge step in your company or organisations’ localization strategy, and doing so successfully will lead to not only an enhanced user experience, but also, increased commercial success.

If you’re interested in finding out how Weglot can help not only translate your website, but facilitate language redirection – why not try out our 10 day free trial and see for yourself. 

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