Websites in Translation

I’ve done a few websites in translation now and they are usually more interesting than doing a normal single language site. If your product/organisation is available in a different region its the thing to do. If you want to expand into that area its a great start. I’m very much less likely to use your product if its not even presented in my own language.

Often people who speak several languages can get by in English but they shouldn’t have to. I’m sure even a multilingual Dutchman would appreciate the effort if you tried putting some of your content in Dutch. If you can’t translate the entire site you could start by translating just the core functionality. You could add a google translate select box which is a pretty simple/cheap way of adding survival translation. A translator will point that this, while good for a machine, may not translate content in a professional way.

Maintenance of international sites

Maintaining sites in multiple languages is more complicated but if you do things in the right way you can minimise the extra work and also reduce the effort that will be required if you want to expand your site into another language in the future. So its worth having a think about if your sites content management system will accommodate different languages. Also as your site is built you want to avoid text as pictures as that would mean every language having a different picture.

Detection and Switching of translation

If you build the site in the right way the person visiting the site won’t have to choose their language as you auto detect this from their browser. That is the best way although you should give them the option of choosing to view the site in a different language from that auto detected. If you do offer switching something some sites do is lose your state, if you have come into a site twenty pages from the homepage, via search for example, you want to click a translate flag and see that page in your chosen language not be redirected to another page or another sites root.( that really annoys me! and people do it grrr!).
Its worth considering what flags you use as well I built a site that had versions in Chinese and English for the English part of a company owned from the U.S. so we ended up with a flag for English that was a merge of both the stars and stripes and the union jack. The Americans were thought to be in the majority even if the language is English.


Its more than just a language though, some sites can benefit to localisation so If your trying to appeal to Americans you would use different terms or spellings to those that you would choose for residents of the UK. Its worth talking to a professional translator even if you have people in your organisation with the relevant languages as they may have access to someone who lives in the region. A site aimed at French speaking Canadians might be slightly different to one aimed at French speakers in Europe.

Links Out

Think about the sites you link to some regions of the world may not get the same content as you do, if I follow a link from an Australian site to a page on the BBC sometimes that content is blocked for me but an Australian would see the content as intended. You can get an idea of this if it is an issue for you by using web proxies in the audiences region.

There is a quite a lot to think about when creating translated sites not just the translation but the regionalisation, localisation, currencies, hosting location and local regulations. It really isn’t so bad though and when you think of the size of the new markets you could be opening your self up to its a big winner.