The 7 Must-Haves of an Exceptional Multilingual Website
Imagine a website that magically adapts to your preferred language, effortlessly speaks to your cultural background, and connects with you on a deeper level than you ever thought possible. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, right? Well, buckle up because the reality of creating an exceptional multilingual website is not far off from this seemingly fantastical scenario.
In today’s interconnected world, where borders dissolve and diversity thrives, the need for a website that transcends language barriers and embraces global audiences has never been more pressing.
In this blog, we will embark on an exciting journey to uncover the 7 must-haves of an exceptional multilingual website that will leave you questioning whether we’ve stumbled upon some kind of digital sorcery. Get ready to witness the astonishing power of language, culture, and technology converging into a digital experience like no other.
In this post:
- Understanding multilingual websites
- The business benefits of having a multilingual website
- 7 must-haves of an exceptional multilingual website
Understanding multilingual websites
A multilingual website is not merely a site that offers translations of its content into different languages. It goes beyond mere language switching and encompasses a comprehensive approach to cater to diverse linguistic audiences. At its core, a multilingual website is designed to provide a localised experience, ensuring that visitors from various language backgrounds feel welcomed, understood, and engaged.
Localisation, therefore, sits at the core of a successful multilingual website and entails the adaptation of content and user experience to align with cultural nuances, preferences, and conventions specific to each target audience. This may include not only translating textual content but also tailoring images, videos, and multimedia elements to resonate with users from different cultural backgrounds.
In other words, a multilingual website involves the thoughtful integration of languages throughout its structure, content, and user interface. It encompasses everything from the initial language selection options to the seamless navigation between languages.
The goal of localisation
By going beyond language conversion, a multilingual website acknowledges the importance of cultural sensitivity and customisation, ensuring that each visitor feels as if the website was crafted specifically for them. Through these efforts, a multilingual website becomes an immersive and personalised experience that fosters engagement, builds trust, and leaves a lasting impression on its diverse audience.
The goal is to create an inclusive digital environment that transcends linguistic boundaries and fosters effective communication with a global audience. By accommodating different languages, a multilingual website acknowledges and respects the diversity of its users, embracing the power of language as a bridge to connect cultures and facilitate meaningful interactions.
The business benefits of having a multilingual website
A multilingual website can bring many benefits to your business, including:
- Increased traffic and engagement from a global audience: By offering your website in multiple languages, you can attract visitors from all over the world who may not have found your website otherwise.
- Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty: Customers appreciate when businesses make an effort to communicate with them in their native language.
- Enhanced brand awareness and affinity: By reaching a wider audience, you can increase your brand awareness and affinity. Customers are more likely to remember and recommend businesses that make an effort to cater to their needs.
- Higher conversion rates and revenue: By making it easier for customers to browse and purchase from your website in their preferred language, you can increase your conversion rates and revenue. In fact, studies show that customers are more likely to purchase from a website that is in their language.
7 must-haves of an exceptional multilingual website
Creating an exceptional multilingual website requires careful consideration and strategic implementation. To ensure your website effectively engages and connects with a diverse audience, here are the 7 must-haves that should be at the forefront of your multilingual website development:
- Dedicated URLs and a clear architecture
- A strategy for each market
- A localised user experience
- Easily accessible language switchers
- Relevant content that resonates locally
- Local search engine optimisation (multilingual SEO)
- Comparable user experience and maintenance
Dedicated URLs and a clear architecture
To ensure a seamless user experience and effective management of a multilingual website, it is essential to implement dedicated URLs and establish a clear website architecture. This practice helps users navigate easily between different language versions of your website and allows search engines to understand and index your content correctly.
- Top-Level Domains (TLDs): Consider using country-specific top-level domains for each language version of your website. For example, use “example.com” for English, “example.es” for Spanish, “example.fr” for French, and so on. This approach not only provides a clear indication of language targeting but also enhances local search visibility and establishes a sense of trust with local users.
- Subdomains: Another option is to use subdomains to differentiate language versions. For instance, use “en.example.com” for English, “es.example.com” for Spanish, “fr.example.com” for French, and so forth.
- Subdirectories: Employing subdirectories is another effective approach, where language versions are organised within directories. For example, use “example.com/en” for English, “example.com/es” for Spanish, “example.com/fr” for French, and so on. Subdirectories provide a clear hierarchy and allow for easy management of language-specific content.
A strategy for each market of your multilingual website
When developing a multilingual website, it is important to have a strategic approach for each target market. Not all content needs to be translated, and focusing on translating the most relevant and impactful content can optimise your efforts and resources.
Focus on translating and presenting the content that is most crucial to generating interest and engagement in the target market. Highlight the products or services that hold the most value or have a higher demand in that particular region.
A localised user experience
Delivering a localised user experience is crucial for a successful multilingual website. This encompasses adapting the website to align with cultural nuances, preferences, and conventions specific to each target audience. From design elements and the provision of local payment methods to content presentation, tailor the user experience to make visitors from different cultures feel welcomed and understood.
- Asian cultures prefer cluttered websites full of information while Western cultures prefer more minimalist designs with plenty of white space.
- In some countries, your forms will need to include additional fields. In Spain, for example, people have two surnames.
- Some cultures prefer deep navigation structures while others prefer broad ones.
- Left-to-right languages will expect to find the basket icon of your ecommerce website on the top left of the screen.
- The prevalent hardware and operating system will differ from one market to the next, and you’ll need to adjust the UI accordingly.
Easily accessible language switchers
Including easily accessible language switchers is essential for a user-friendly multilingual website. By providing users with the ability to switch between languages effortlessly, you empower them to navigate and engage with your content in their preferred language. Avoid the common mistake of automatically forcing a language on users based on their IP address, as this can lead to frustrating experiences and inaccurate language assumptions.
Instead, place language switchers prominently and visibly on your website, allowing users to choose their preferred language from the start. By respecting users’ language preferences and providing them with control over their browsing experience, you create an inclusive and user-centric environment that encourages engagement and fosters positive interactions.
Relevant content that resonates locally
One of the key factors that contribute to the success of a multilingual website is the presence of relevant and culturally resonant content. Creating content that speaks directly to the local audience’s interests, needs, and cultural context is crucial for building a strong connection and fostering engagement.
To achieve this, conduct thorough research and gain insights into the target audience of each language version of your website. Understand their unique preferences, cultural references, and trending topics. Tailor your content to address their specific pain points, interests, and aspirations.
For example, if you run a pest control company and you want to write a blog with tips to manage common pest issues, adapt the content to resonate locally in different regions by researching the prevalent pests in each target market.
Local search engine optimisation (multilingual SEO)
In the realm of multilingual websites, optimising your content for local search engines through multilingual SEO is paramount to improve visibility and attract organic traffic from each target region. Localising your SEO efforts ensures that your website ranks well in search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases in each language.
Search behaviour is culturally influenced. For example, in collectivist, risk-averse cultures, like the Chinese, consumers regard other customers’ reviews as a very trusted source for commercial investigation—and this reflects in how they search online.
Comparable user experience and maintenance
When building a multilingual website, it is crucial to ensure that each language version offers a comparable user experience to your English site. Consistency in content and design, along with regular maintenance, plays a vital role in achieving this goal. Here’s how you can maintain a comparable user experience across all language versions of your website:
- Consistent content updates: Regularly update and maintain the content across all language versions of your website. Ensure that new information, announcements, and updates are provided in a timely manner in each supported language. Consistency in content updates demonstrates your commitment to serving all users equally.
- Translation accuracy: Pay close attention to the accuracy of translations across different language versions. Work with professional translators who are fluent in the target languages to ensure accurate and culturally appropriate translations. Regularly review and update translations to reflect any changes or improvements in your original content.
- Visual consistency: Maintain a consistent visual identity across all language versions. Use the same branding elements and design styles to create a cohesive look and feel. This consistency reinforces your brand image and ensures that users can easily recognise and navigate your website, regardless of the language they prefer.
- Functionality and features: Ensure that the functionality and features available on your English site are also present and fully functional in all language versions. Users should have access to the same tools, functionalities, and interactive elements, regardless of the language they choose.
- User feedback and testing: Actively seek user feedback and conduct regular testing to identify any issues or discrepancies in the user experience across different language versions. Pay attention to user suggestions and address any usability concerns to continuously improve and maintain a comparable user experience.
In conclusion, building an exceptional multilingual website requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a deep understanding of your target markets. By implementing the seven must-haves we discussed, you can create a website that resonates with diverse audiences and drives engagement.
Author: Maria Scheibengraf
Maria Scheibengraf is an English-to-Spanish marketing and SEO translator specialised in software (SaaS, martech, fintech), and Operations Manager at Crisol Translation Services, which she co-founded in 2016. With a solid background in programming and marketing, Maria has an in-depth understanding of the technical intricacies involved in software programs, websites, and digital platforms. Maria is also the author of The SEO Translation Bible.