The world is shrinking and moving towards becoming a global village. Products and services that were developed for a niche group of people in some corner of the world, are now becoming relevant for people everywhere. Starting from food, personal care products to technology and finance — everywhere, local solutions are being applied globally. These global businesses deal with customers from different territories and languages. In such a scenario, multilingual websites are essential to satisfactorily cater to each and every customer. Excellent customer relations start with language support, before anything else.
When you have decided to go for a multilingual site, the next step is to come up with a language strategy. Here are a few things to ask yourself and decide:
Single or multiple websites?
Do you want to have a single global site providing translated content according to the location of the user? Or, would you prefer to have a separate website for each language? It really depends on how important that customer segment is for you. Multi-language websites require more resources for maintenance. If it is a niche segment, then do a thorough market research to understand whether it has the potential to give a good Return on Investment (ROI), considering the cost of support and maintenance. In case it is a low-potential one, then it is wise to go with a single site providing translations for some sections.
Multi-territory or multi-language?
You can have separate websites in different languages, or you can group websites based on the region or country. For example, consider Belgium. It has a mix of people speaking Dutch, German and French. You can cater to this territory through a single website, and translating into each language using subdomains or folders. This approach helps to group sales and support for a region, and streamlines the business activities.
Choosing a domain extension (such as .com) depends on your answer to the last two questions. If you want to have multiple websites - one for each territory, then you can use extensions that reflect those countries. In the earlier example, you can launch a .be website for your Belgium customers. This approach makes the website look tailor-made for the particular geography, and resonates well with the localities.
The other option is to go for .com which is the generic domain extension for most businesses all over the world. You can still cater to your customers in their own languages by using subdomains and folders. For example, fr.go-global.com or go-global.com/fr/ . Here, ‘fr’ is the internationally recognized code for French.
Search Engine Optimization is a crucial aspect of business development. With the advent of e-commerce and accessible internet connections, a majority of people search for products and services online. This number is ever increasing and there is no going back now. To compete in this digital game, your website needs to be search engine optimized. You can get a better ranking for a region when you go for a multi-territory and multi-language approach. Make sure to use the two-letter codes and language tags, which can boost your SEO ranking.
Tips & tricks for multilingual websites
The first and foremost rule in managing multilingual websites language is - don't just translate. Customize your whole website for the target audience. People of every territory and language have their own unique cultural and behavioural patterns. Multilingual website design should be aligned with those nuances in every level namely design, template, content and tone.
Remember not to fall for an automatic translation provider. Though artificial intelligence is inching towards human intelligence steadily, we haven’t reached a point where a software can produce culturally fitting digital content. Hire language experts and build a personalized experience for each user category. The content has to resonate with the user’s persona.
Design of multilingual websites demands usage of appropriate themes, colours and layouts for different customer segments. Design your websites depending on the cultural background of target users. For example, Arabs usually prefer to-the-point content with lean design. On the other hand, in the western countries, you need attractive themes with lots of content to capture the user’s attention.
When your websites are targeting customers from different races, it is important to hire models of those communities for your product portfolio. This will make the customer feel connected with the product. Also, remember to use the appropriate currency and payments.
Some websites make a wrong choice of translating just the product descriptions while leaving the navigation menu in English. This is a blunder in digital marketing. Make sure each and every word is localized. Moreover, switching between languages should be user-friendly and intuitive. The best design option here is to provide the language switch dropdown in the top right corner of the window. Adding flag icons in the dropdown will further improve usability.
Create dedicated social media accounts for each territory/language and show feeds in your respective language website. This trick serves two purposes. It better engages your audience, and also boosts your SEO ranking for that territory.
Examples of multilingual websites
Strikingly offers an easy way of creating and managing multilingual/multinational websites. Here are a couple of examples to get inspiration from.
Onwear is a Chinese brand of sports apparel that has a market in both China and outside. It's a known fact that China has a unique culture because of which the language and content for Chinese market have to be specially made. This website has leveraged the power of multilingual websites, to connect with Chinese and the rest of the world fittingly.
Apart from translating every word, Onwear uses different promotional pictures for China and the rest of the world. For the former, the pictures in the slider feature Chinese sports teams, while it's about American adventure games for the latter. This kind of customization helps the user to relate to the product better. The additional floating banner about international shipping included in the English site will be advantageous for customers outside China.
Juhu Ecological Park
This eco-park with homestay facility in Taiwan hosts tourists hailing from both Chinese speaking regions and otherwise. Their multilingual websites do an excellent job of catering to customers from both categories. They have chosen a wise strategy of partial customization. The promotional content shown at the top of the website is totally different while other details such as contact details and booking are just translated using the same design.
The domain extension is a territorial one - ‘tw’ - which stands for Taiwan. Keeping the main website in Chinese, a sub-domain ‘en’ has been used for its English version.
How to create multilingual websites?
Last year, Strikingly introduced language switcher, to help hundreds of businesses go global. With no line of code, now you can create multilingual websites quickly and effortlessly. Follow these steps and set up your multi-language website today.
Strikingly’s language switcher works by linking independent sites together to form a multi-language website group. The first step is to sign up on Strikingly and create websites for each language that your business requires. In this example, we are designing and publishing an e-commerce website that sells exotic fruits.
Pro-tip: To construct multiple websites in a short time, the easiest way is to design a website in one language and then clone it to make translations. From the sites dashboard, hover over the ‘Settings’ button of your first website, and click on ‘Clone’, and ‘Confirm’. Voila! Your second website is now ready for translation.
Now, go to settings in edit view of any of the two sites. Under the ‘Settings’ menu, expand ‘Advanced Settings’, and select the ‘Multi-Language’ section. Click on the ‘Activate Language Switcher’ and ‘Confirm’.
Click the ‘Add Site’ button. Select the site name that you want to link with this site. Strikingly gives you a choice of choosing an appropriate flag icon according to your customer territory. Select the flag icon from the dropdown menu and then choose the language label of this site. Similarly, you can add multiple sites of different languages or territories. You can even use custom URLs instead of linking sites.
Once you are done with adding all the sites, click on the ‘Save’ button. Click the ‘Publish’ button at the bottom left corner. Now your multilingual websites are live. You will be able to see the language switcher at the top right corner of both websites.
Entrepreneurship demands constant expansion in terms of both product and customer base. Globalization is not a choice anymore, it is the norm. Strikingly makes it easy for businesses to cater to a wider population, with its drag-and-drop multi-language website building feature. Harness the power of technology, and take your business to new heights.