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Five tips for building a multilingual website

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Having a multilingual website is critical for exports. People all over the world need to know what you’re all about, and you can’t rely on all those people being able to speak the same language.

While businesspeople you directly interact with may be able to carry on a professional conversation with you in English, the average consumer in a different country may not have that ability.

Creating a multilingual website will make you more accessible to people all over the world.

Here are five tips to help you build a multilingual website:

1. Start with a Landing Page

It doesn’t matter if you’ve translated all your content when people don’t know how to select the language they need. If the feature to change the main language is hidden somewhere on your website, visitors won’t be able to find it if they don’t speak English. Consider building a landing page that will allow users to select the site’s language from the beginning, so no one will have to dig around to find the option.

2. Never rely on automatic translations

Automatic translations can create some embarrassing errors. Major businesses have attempted to rely on automatic translations, only to be horrendously let down. When KFC first opened its doors to Beijing customers in the early 80s, their “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan was inadvertently translated into “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off”, which is perhaps not the best way to sell fried chicken. It’s best to hire multiple native speakers to manually translate your website, and review the translations several times before going live.

3. Familiarize yourself with different cultures

What works fine in your home country may be considered highly offensive in other parts of the world. Business cultures and customs vary from country to country. If your business deals with beef or leather goods, don’t even bother translating your site for use in India. Businesses that deal with alcohol won’t find much luck in certain areas of the Middle East, where the consumption of alcohol is against the law.

4. Remember to update region specific details

If you’ve placed details like shipping costs and dispatch times within the text of your website, they aren’t going to be the same in different regions. It may cost $50 and take 10 days to get your product somewhere local, but sending it to France is a completely different story. Don’t forget to recalculate rates that you’ve built into informational text when making your website accessible to natives of other countries.

5. Incorporate multilingual features into your web design

Translation goes further than just text. A word that is six characters in English may be 13 characters in German. If you’ve placed that word on a button, it could distort your website. Translation needs to be incorporated into the HTML of your website. Things like metadata are equally as important for people living abroad who are trying to find you through organic search. You might want to hit up Gumtree for a web designer who is familiar with creating multilingual websites.

Zoe Anderson

Though creating a multilingual website may take a lot of time and money, it’s undoubtedly worth it in the end.

Expanding your enterprise for customers all over the planet is a worthwhile venture. Just make sure you’re familiar with other countries and you’re vigilant about making sure the final product is perfect before you unleash your multilingual website into the world.

Zoe Anderson is a marketing assistant at StudySelect which connects students with more than 2,000 online and on-campus courses from Australia’s leading educational institutions.

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