For any business seeking to enhance their user experience and level of personalization on their site, localization is the way to go. Defined by the Globalisation and Localization Association (GALA) as the process of “adapting a product, an offering, or simply content to a specific locale or market”, localization is what allows companies to have success in different geographic areas and across borders. Localization is very much a necessity for a business with global ambition, because the needs, attitudes, and expectations of customers vary greatly from region to region.
When thinking about localization, translation is probably the most obvious thing that comes to mind, after all, what better way to enhance the user experience by providing content in their first language? However, localization is an umbrella term and goes beyond addressing language barriers and also looks at things such as cultural nuances, societal norms and preferences. So when we reflect on it, we can consider localization to involve all the actions taken to personalize offerings to different consumer groups.
Of course, given its various components and considerations, localization can be a tedious endeavour to get right. With this in mind, in this article we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest issues to avoid when it comes to localizing your own website!
#1 Choosing the Wrong Translation Method
Of course, while translation isn’t all there is when it comes to localization, it does play a significant role in the process. It’s important to choose a translation solution that finds the right balance between speed, accuracy, ease of maintenance and cost.
Generally, when it comes to website translation you have two options:
Human Translations: Going down this route for your translations involves hiring professional translators who will then translate all your site on a page-by-page basis. Professional translators can be trusted to provide you with accurate and high quality translations.
However, other things should be considered before jumping at this option. Firstly, think of the technical aspects behind a multilingual site, professional translators won’t be able to assist you when it comes to integrating these translations onto your site. The next thing you need to think about is cost, professional translations are expensive, and if you’ve got thousands of pages to translate – this option quickly becomes infeasible.
Automatic/Machine translations: On the flip side of this, automatic machine translation is another choice when it comes to addressing your multilingual needs. The question of translation quality is often raised when considering this option, however, automatic machine translation is shown to be improving in accuracy year after year. In addition to this, machine translation is a speedy and cost effective translation option. It’s also a great way to kick start your website localization project and by no means the final words that need to make it onto your site.
Of course, each method has its advantages and from the outside website translation can be a challenge.
However, if you don’t know where to start, you’re in luck. Using a translation solution that takes care of both the localization and internationalization side means you don’t need to tackle such a project alone.
Weglot strikes the right balance between both automated, post-human editing, the use of professional translators and importantly displays the content of your website too. In this way, you can get the best of both in terms of both cost and translation quality. Weglot also comes with an intuitive translation management interface making it easy to manually edit translations, exclude translations, and much more.
#2 Ignoring Design Considerations
Following from the previous point, another website localization issue to avoid is not considering thoroughly the design of your website. When translating your website for localization purposes, it’s important to recognise the role of your site’s design in this.
Regardless of the CMS you’re using, one of the first things you should consider is using a well-developed theme for your site. Make sure that your chosen theme is widely compatible with other apps and plugins that can enhance your site’s functionality, that it uses RTL (right-to-left) formatting, and that it’s well structured and designed. Alternatively, if you opt for a custom theme, make sure you incorporate all of the above into your design.
When it comes to incorporating your translated content into your site’s design, you’ll need to be mindful of what this will look like on your webfront. This is because languages not only differ in sound and syntax, but also in terms of the space words occupy in a given sentence.
As a result of this, it’s important to consider this when designing your site by leaving plenty of space in your design to cater for discrepancies and variations associated with translating from one language to another. Failure to anticipate this could result in things such as broken strings and overlapping text, which are far from ideal when you’re trying to entice new customers with your offering.
A final err of caution would be to avoid custom fonts on your site. Often these customised fonts are not easily translatable and can cause unnecessary difficulty when going multilingual.
#3 Not Considering Cultural Context
As previously mentioned, localization is not just about translation and so, it’s also important to localize with respect to particular geographic regions. So, even if two countries may have the same first language, they can also have a number of distinct differences meaning you’ll have to tailor your commercial approach to each region.
Doing this successfully involves a consideration of the cultural context of each of the markets you’re targeting or operating in. For example, English is the first language of both the U.K and the U.S.A., however, these countries are in fact very disparate. Even for things as simple as spelling and terminology, it’s important to recognise the differences between the two. So, if you’re a travel agency in the United Kingdom targeting American customers, you may want to localize certain aspects of your site by using the American-English spelling of words, for example “customise” to “customize”. You may also want to consider changing words like ‘holidays’ to the more commonly used “vacation” to localize for your American audience.
Following from this, it’s also prudent to consider any images or media on your website. Why? Well, in the same way that you may translate text so that foreign audiences can understand, you may wish to do the same with this media content. If they won’t understand, it’s wise to localize or translate these images and videos for each language version of your website.
So, for example, say you’re a website promoting tourist attractions and hotspots for ‘staycations, on the English language version of your site where you’re targeting American customers you may have an image of the Statue of Liberty. However, for the French language version of this site, promoting tourist attractions in France, you may choose to change the image to one of the Eiffel tower.
You may also want to do this to be considerate of cultural nuances between the different markets you’re targeting. For example, in countries such as Qatar, Japan, etc holidays such as Christmas and Easter aren’t celebrated so it would be advisable to adapt any holiday specific content in order to be relevant with the region you’re targeting.
Fortunately, Weglot is fully equipped for image and media localization meaning your website can easily be understood and culturally relevant to your customers across the globe.
#4 Picking the Wrong Translation Technology
One thing you definitely don’t want to get wrong when localizing is picking the wrong translation technology. This is because different translation solutions deal with your content in different ways, some of which are not considered best practice for multi-language sites.
Your multilingual websites architecture should avoid at all costs the use of duplicate pages or websites. The reason for this is because duplicate pages and sites are heavily penalised by search engines (ex. Google) when it comes to ranking highly on search engine result pages.
Ideally, your localized content in the specific language should live under the same URL as your original language within language specific subdomains or subdirectories. Under this architecture, duplicate content penalties from Google are avoided.
To illustrate these different URL structures, say you have your original website in English perhaps and are translating to French:
Original site URL: www.mywebsite.com
Weglot not only automatically sets up your language specific subdomains or subdirectories (depending on your CMS), it also automatically deals with other beneficial localization features such as the implementation of hreflang tags. These tags or attributes help search engines to determine both the language of the page and which region it is intended for.
#5 Forgetting About International SEO
With your website ready for customers around the globe, at the minimum you’ll want to make sure they can actually find it when browsing online. This is where a good multilingual SEO strategy comes in.
Multilingual or international SEO is essentially just doing everything you already do for domestic level SEO, but for every language version of your site. Successful multilingual SEO involves translating the entirety of your site’s content, translating any metadata on your site, adding hreflang tags, as well as having language specific subdomains/directories.
Looking after your international SEO will make your site and it’s offering discoverable to visitors all over the world who are searching in foreign languages. Of course, if you’ve many languages to translate, multilingual SEO can quickly become a heavy task that could take months to complete. Luckily, if you choose Weglot for your translation and localization needs, all of your multilingual SEO is automatically covered, taking the pain out of what can be an extremely cumbersome process.
When we localize, we personalize, making website localization a critical consideration for any business or organization. Of course, given the vast range of things to consider, this can often seem like a complicated prospect for businesses seeking international growth. Luckily, localization efforts are now greatly facilitated by a number of smart tools and solutions that can take the pain out of localization and help you to avoid the common pitfalls experienced by many businesses.
Why not try out Weglot’s 10 day free trial to get your localization strategy off and running.