Website globalization can be a complex process if the proper groundwork has not been established in the planning stages. Without clearly established goals and proper planning, web globalization can easily be stalled by a wide range of technical obstacles and linguistic embarrassments.
The following suggestions are guidelines for developing a successful multilingual web site with help from business translation professionals:
Test The Waters First
When globalizing your web site, trying to do too much too soon before completely understanding the many challenges involved can result in failure. Focusing on one language at a time will allow you to experience the “learning curve” of website globalization without multiple complications.
Develop Best Practices
Since Finance, Customer Service, Legal, Marketing and many other departments are impacted by the addition of languages to your website, it is in your best interest to develop best practices for those departments. Create a process whereby updates, feedback, etc. can be utilized by all. The development of best practices allows for smoother transition when additional languages are included on your website.
How Will Your Target Audience Find Your Site?
You must make sure all the signs (including the foreign markets) are clearly defined that lead to your site, as everyone doesn’t always take the obvious path to reach your site.
Using national flags as graphic pointers can be a problem, for example, when a French-speaking person from Canada only sees the flag of France. As your home page may need to greet visitors in several languages at once, it is usually best to allow users to select a language option instead of a flag option.
Don’t Imbed Text if it Changes Frequently
Scaling back to a less graphics-intensive site makes text management less complex and allows the web site to load faster in the native country.
Due to the fact that English does not translate into other languages with the same amount of text space, text expansion and contraction must be taken into consideration. Some European languages can take up to 25% more space when translated from English and Asian languages. Therefore, enough space needs to be allocated in the initial layout so that the text can expand and contract without creating space problems that impact the overall design of your site.
Think in Terms of Localization
Localizing the content to the specific requirements and needs of the local audience should include the following:
- Time and date formatting
- Writing style
- Color, image and photo selection
Establish a Global Style
Since some words translate better than others, it is important to develop an international corporate style that will translate well abroad. Brand names, clichés and Americanisms can be particularly troublesome. International style should:
- Be clear and simple
- When appropriate, make use of boilerplate terminology, legal information, and brand names that have been “pre-tested” for any translation/cultural problems
- Avoid humor
- Avoid analogies or slogans that don’t make sense in other cultures
Keep the Site Manageable
Establishing standards for file organization and naming before you build a multilingual site will allow you to better manage files and images. Whatever works best for your organization, your web management tools, and the platform is basically the best rule of thumb to follow.
Communications Support for Your Site
As you enter the web site globalization process, it is equally important to remember that a web site speaks to the world. Pay close attention to your email and phone support infrastructures. Be clear on your web site as to what types of communication support are provided and what types of support are not provided.
Use In-Country Testers
The effectiveness of your newly globalized web site won’t be known until it is tested in its target locale. The safest way to do this is to use dedicated, independent testers who can view the web site with various devices, browsers, and systems. Utilization of in-country testers ensures quality and consistency in the verification process.
Unicode is a 16-bit character set capable of encoding all known characters and is used as a worldwide character-encoding standard. Unicode is a major component in web site globalization. Almost all operating systems support Unicode, as do most major software developers and web browsers.
In order to avoid script errors from occurring, which would produce an erroneous English response, the developers need to build scripts that pull text from resource files based upon the language needed. That will prevent a Japanese user being thanked in English after submitting an order!
Never Forget North America
When doing corporate translations on your website, make sure you understand how translated pages will display on English language web browsers. No matter how many languages you ultimately have on your site, remember that there will be a significant number of people within North America (and the world) who will want to view the site in English.