The proper translation of your website is likely the first impression you will make with your non-English speaking customers. All too often, the most important questions are not addressed until it is too late. Here are six key considerations to think about before you begin the process of website translation.
What information will you translate?
A good first step is to understand what parts of your website will be translated. Do you have any products or services that you are not selling in other countries? If so, it doesn’t make sense to translate those pages. Take a close look at your blog and news section. Do those posts make sense to your target audience in other countries?
A good way to save budget dollars on your website translation project is to only translate the most relevant content. This is also a very important question relative to the maintenance of your translated website. If you start translating a section of your site or a specific type of content, it is good to stay consistent and continue translating that section. If you translate your blog for the initial release of the site but decide against the translation of future posts, you are signaling to your audience a lack of commitment to that market.
How will the text be translated (imported and exported)?
If you are using a content management system (CMS), there is likely a built-in feature or a plugin available that will allow you to export and import content that your translation provider can use for translation. The most common format is a variety of XML known as XLIFF. XLIFF is an industry standard format that allows translation management systems to properly parse the source text and add the translated text while preserving the proper markup (tags/code) to render the pages on the web so that the translated site looks exactly like the original English version.
Here is an example of what XML content in an XLIFF file looks like. I have added hard returns to separate the content for clarity in this example.
Also, check out this in-depth video on how the translation process works in a WordPress environment.
How will you set up the domain for each translated version?
Translated websites are typically handled in one of two ways. First, you can create subdirectories for each language. If your English site is www.argotrans.com, the French for France version is www.argotrans.com/fr-fr or even www.argotrans.com/?lang=fr-fr. The second way is to create a dedicated domain so that the French site is something like www.argotrans.fr.
This also brings up the question of how your users will select their language. Some sites use automatic routing based on the country associated with the visitor’s IP address while other sites display a language selector, typically located in the upper right-hand corner of the site. Here are three examples:
How will you maintain the site? How will updates be handled?
In the second point, we covered how you would import and export the content for translation. Once that process is determined, you can plan how to handle updates and new content. Many of the plugins for the various content management systems have filters that will identify the content that is either new or updated and subsequently requires translation. The timing of updates should also be planned. Some companies will translate content every day, others will do weekly drops and only handle daily content drops for urgent information.
How will you handle inquiries from other countries?
Once your website is translated you should consider how to handle inquiries via the various forms and the chat function on your site. Some companies will route the forms to their offices in-country or they use a language service provider to handle the translation on a rush basis. Some firms even use Machine Translation to address these requests.
How will the scope be determined?
A common request is for customers to simply ask how much does their website cost for translation. That is a very difficult question to answer without answering the other questions in this post. If you are price shopping and trying to use price as one of the factors in choosing your translation vendor, you really need to hammer down a very tight scope so that there is no variability in what each translation provider is budgeting. If you just throw out a request with a URL you will get huge swings in the proposed cost and you will likely get some firms that will not provide an estimate without more specific information.
Website translation projects can be complex. Addressing these topics before getting started will help you save time and money, and more importantly, create an effective means to engage with your customers via your website, no matter what language they speak! To learn more about website translation best practices, download our website translation e-book.
Peter founded Argo Translation, originally based in Milwaukee, WI, in 1995. Prior to transferring his love of all things international and his savvy business expertise into Chicago’s premier translation agency, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he graduated with a major in finance and human resource management. After graduation he went on to become an Italian translator and project manager for an international medical equipment manufacturer and major airline.