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Best Practices for Creating Multilingual Websites

Creating a multilingual website can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be.

Structuring your web pages to fit the needs of your audience can provide a good user experience for your visitors. Using a customer-centric approach to developing content makes new visitors feel welcomed and returning users come back.

Gaining trust amongst your audience is a measure of credibility and reliability. It shows you are an internationally-savvy company who cares about their customers.

Being a leader in the marketplace gives you an advantage over your competitors. If they aren’t doing it then you are.

Some best practices for creating multilingual websites are thinking about what URL the user will visit, some online laws of the specific country, consistency, translation, SEO, and coding for the right location.


URLs

Make sure URLs reflect the language of the specific country. Using separate URLs for multilingual websites such as Ikea or Alibaba is a good practice. The .com top-level domain is most popular in the United States. If your company has customers outside of the U.S., use a ccTLD (country code top-level domain) or a subcategory of a gTLD (generic top-level domain).

  • Yourcompany.com
  • Yourcompany.com/ca/fr (country - Canada, language - French)
  • French.yourcompany.com
  • Yourcompany.fr (France’s top-level domain)

Google’s international targeting shows the ability to set a target country for your website.

urls


International and Country-Specific regulations

Use geolocation for the proper country. Some countries have multiple languages and some languages are spoken in multiple countries.

If you’re going to use the French language in Canada, cater to the Canadian audience and laws and likewise in France. It’s a difference vocabulary in France and Canada. Both countries have different online law regulations so it’s vital to consider what those are.


Be Consistent In Your User Interface

Keep all user functionality and features similar across all international sites for your company credibility, however, keep in mind your audience and the country specific regulations. The user could get confused if they decide to switch to another language on your website and find different content.

templatemonster

If you create a navigation menu for each language, use a drop down or sub-menu for each country. Since all countries have various regulations, laws, and dialect, you can go a step further, if necessary, to adjust those websites according to each country.

On some of your images, you might have to accommodate the audience and find some photos that won’t offend your users.

At the top of your home page, on each individual home page, use a menu of the different languages so it’s easier to click. This option could be in the footer, but it’s best at the top to prevent the user from getting lost.

A drop-down menu can be used if the user wants to switch to a different language, but it can cause confusion when the user does not know when to look there.

If your audience language consists of only two or three languages, having a landing page like the one below is useful. The appropriate button will assist them to the proper website.

In this example, Ikea, a popular Scandinavian home furnishing chain has a URL for the United States as ikea.com/us/en/ where “us” is the country and “en” the English language.

On Ikea’s worldwide English page, it gives Korean online visitors a choice for English language or Korean language. Both web pages have images that reflect the Korean culture.

all locations
Ikea Greece’s website URL, www.ikea.gr/, shows the native Greek language used by the majority of the population.
ikea


Translation

It is best that content is translated and reviewed by a language professional, not an online translator. An expert speaker knows how to speak in a language everyday people use.

Sometimes online translators submit the wrong information or translation and it will confuse your readers. Additionally, your credibility will be questioned when you have errors in one or more of your multilingual websites.

Online translators are limited to what they do. Plus, an online translation can’t use SEO tactics you need for search engines.


Provide Customer Service in All Languages

In case of online problems, give the user options to chat online or speak with a representative. If your company is large enough, you’ll be able to hire an online translator and outsource customer service representatives.

If this option if not practical in your company or you are a startup, your audience may be small and outsourcing could be an option for a few languages. Keep in mind the telephone numbers listed on your website for each country as they will differ.


Use Proper SEO

Some companies have different dominant search engines. Because Google is dominant in some countries, Bing may be most used. In China, Baidu is the most used search engine and Bing is most popular in UK and France. Considering the most popular search engines, you’ll need to build your SEO around those popular search engines.

baidu


UTF-8 Encoding

UTF-8 encoding makes sure no characters disappear from your site when you switch languages online. Korean or Chinese language characters differ and it’s necessary to ensure all characters are represented.

<meta charset="utf-8">

Some languages characters take up more space and therefore need more or less space when translated. For example, “click to buy” in Latin-based language has 10 characters while “cliquez pour acheter” has 18 characters.


Conclusion

Understanding the global aspects of multilingual web design, you can build confidently by following these best practices. It is possible to create a strong website that caters to your global audience.

Have you already created a multilingual website? What are some other practices used for global websites?

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Monica Brown

I'm a professional writer and my articles clearly show the sphere of my interests - marketing, content management and website audience growing. Besides that, I like reading tech magazines and traveling.

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