How to Translate a Website: Best Practice Guide

In recent years, companies of all sizes now market their products and services to a global audience. However, this opportunity brings a major challenge – how do you effectively communicate with clients who speak different languages? In this article, we’ll guide you on how to translate a website using best contemporary practices and provide useful resources to help you along the way.

Imagine you’re a business owner eager to expand into new international markets. Your beautifully designed website showcases your brand and offerings perfectly…in English. But when a potential customer in Germany, China or Brazil lands on your site, they are immediately faced with a customs or language barrier. Confused by the unfamiliar experience, many will simply click away, representing a missed opportunity.

This is where website localisation comes in. By adapting your online content and user experience for different languages and cultures, you can unlock vast new audiences and drive real business growth. However, the localisation process requires careful planning and execution to get it right.

What exactly Is website localisation?

Website localisation goes beyond simply translating your text into another language word-for-word. It’s a comprehensive process of modifying the entire user experience to make it feel completely native and tailored for each target locale.

This could involve changes to design elements like layout, colours, images, dates, currencies and more to align with local cultural norms. For example, a website being localised for an Arabic-speaking market would need to adjust for right-to-left reading direction. One for China may need to consider designing for a mobile-first experience.

At its core, effective localisation eliminates language and cultural barriers so international clients can seamlessly understand, navigate and engage with your brand online. When done well, it provides the same contextually relevant, user-friendly experience they would expect from a local business.

How to translate a website: The 6-step path

Now that we understand what’s involved, let’s walk through the key stages of localising your website:

1: Identify target markets & languages

The first step is deciding which specific countries and languages to prioritise for localisation based on factors like:

  • Market size & growth potential
  • Competition levels
  • Cultural similarities to your origin market
  • Availability of professional translation resources

It’s generally best to start with your highest-value opportunities and roll out successive languages incrementally based on your resources and goals. Consider partnering with a language service provider that specialises in market research services, as well as localisation services.

2: Prepare your site for localisation

Before you can localise any content, your underlying website architecture needs to be able to support it. This typically involves:

  • Using a content management system or software that allows for multiple language versions
  • Separating text content from code so it can be easily translated
  • Creating a unified terminology base and style guide for consistent voice across languages
  • Implementing URL configuration and hreflang tags for SEO best practices

This upfront tech setup is crucial for an organised, efficient localisation workflow.

3: Translate & localise content

Now for the core piece – adapting all of your website text and multimedia content for each target language. This requires invested human translation resources, whether that’s in-house linguists or partnering with a specialised localisationagency.

Professional human translation is essential, as machine translation alone simply cannot convey linguistic authenticity, cultural context and on-brand voice effectively. Your linguists will not only translate text, but also localise components like:

  • Page copy, articles and other text content
  • UI text like buttons, menus and error messages
  • Images, videos and other multimedia
  • Products names and descriptions for e-commerce sites
  • Local accents, idioms and word choice

4: Localise design & UX

A fully localised user experience also accounts for design element adjustments like:

  • Language reading direction (e.g. right-to-left for Arabic/Hebrew)
  • Colours and their cultural associations
  • Date, time and number formats
  • Placement and orientation of logos, icons, graphics, etc.
  • Page layout and information hierarchy
  • Multilingual font implementations

These details are essential for creating an intuitive, familiar-feeling online journey customised for each locale.

5: Test & launch

Once all components are localised, it’s time for thorough quality assurance testing across different browsers, devices and environments. This should cover:

  • Review by native-speaking proofreaders
  • Checking functionality, navigation and formatting
  • Identifying and resolving any language rendering issues
  • Confirming SEO implementation like hreflang tags
  • Load testing for large-scale traffic from new markets

Only after your localised website is thoroughly vetted should you publicly launch and promote it through digital marketing campaigns tailored for each new region.

6: Maintain & update

Website localisation shouldn’t be treated as a one-time project, but an ongoing process. You’ll need a system for continuously managing:

  • New content translation as pages are added or updated
  • Iterative copy refinements based on user feedback
  • Keeping translation memories and terminology databases updated
  • Monitoring SEO performance and site analytics for localised versions

Consistent oversight and maintenance is key for a sustainable, productive multilingual online presence.

How to translate a website: 8 top tips

So, now you understand how to translate a website in terms of process. However, pulling off an effective, scalable website localisation initiative is no easy feat. Here are eight proven tips to increase your chances of success:

  1. Develop a detailed localisation strategy upfront
  2. Establish a centralised localisation process and workflows
  3. Invest in professional native linguists, don’t cut corners
  4. Integrate with translation management technologies
  5. Build a centralised termbase and style guide
  6. Conduct extensive quality assurance user testing
  7. Implement smart SEO practices for multilingual sites
  8. Consistently maintain and update localised content

Online resources for website translation

A digital multilingual future

Offering a localised user experience is rapidly becoming a prerequisite for businesses hoping to compete on the global stage. By investing in a strategic, comprehensive website localisation program, you can effectively remove language barriers and open your brand up to vast new markets.

While it requires careful planning and upfront resources, the potential rewards are immense – increased global brand awareness, more engaged international clients, and higher conversion rates from audiences that feel like your products were built just for them. For ambitious companies looking to expand their geographic footprint, website localisation may just be your biggest opportunity for future growth.

How to translate a website: FAQs

What is website localisation?

Website localisation is the process of modifying and translating all components of a website (text, multimedia, design, etc.) to make it culturally and linguistically appropriate for a specific target locale or market. It goes beyond simple translation to adapt the entire user experience.

Why is website localisation important?

Localisation allows businesses to provide an intuitive, on-brand experience for international clients in their native languages. This eliminates language barriers, improves accessibility and engagement, and unlocks opportunities to expand into lucrative new global markets.

What are the key steps in a website localisation project?

The main steps are:

  1. Identifying target languages/markets
  2. Preparing the website architecture for multilingual support
  3. Professionally translating and localising all content
  4. Adapting design/UX for local cultural norms
  5. Quality assurance testing
  6. Launch and ongoing maintenance

How much does website localisation cost?

Costs can vary significantly based on factors like the number of languages, volume of content, multimedia components, and whether internal linguists or external vendors are used. Professional localisation is an investment but has a high return on investment for reaching global audiences.

How long does it take to translate a website?

The timeline depends on the scope and complexity of the website. Additionally, your budget will determine how many translators can work on your website. A fairly large localisation project can typically be completed within 2-6 months with proper project management and resources in place.

Looking for translation services?

Our global translation services help companies distribute content to other audiences across the world. Whether this is information in documents, web content, product or marketing campaigns, or audio-visual media, our team of experienced, industry-qualified translators offers an exceptional level of service.

Did you know?

Global Lingo has one of the largest pool of linguists in the industry. Everyone is a native speaker in the language they are translating into, and we can translate into and from 150+ languages. So, whatever your project, whatever the language, Global Lingo can help.

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