If you think of going global, having a multi-lingual website is important part of the plan! Irrespective of whether you intend at creating loads of money through your website or if you simply intend to create a strong online presence, there are various important aspects of your website design that you must consider from the initial phase itself. Your website will do well only if it is flexible or adaptable with the international standards. If you desire to create foreign language equivalent versions of your website, then they have to be perfectly localized before the website is launched. This process can be simplified if you plan for it from the start.
The most important elements of setting up a multi-lingual website are mentioned below:
The website owners who have an inclination towards the front-end design rather than having more information on the aspects behind the scenes must be aware of the fact – computers deal with numbers and not letters. Letters and other characters are featured by having a number that is assigned to each letter through a system of coding. Earlier, there were various encoding systems with several languages however all that is changed by Unicode. Unicode assigns a unique number to every character irrespective of the platform, program or language. It is been accepted by the industry leaders as well. The most important aspect is that, it is supported by various browsers and operating systems.
The widely used web design applications like Microsoft Front Page and Dreamweaver facilitate the creation of Unicode web pages. Currently, Unicode can be used for approximately 90 scripts and has an arena of over 100,000 characters. ‘UTF-8’ is a commonly used encoding for Unicode that is used by the programmers for creating websites for international markets. This is because UTF-8 enables them to use characters from various languages. You must make the use of Unicode if you would like to create a website for many languages.
The colors of a website make it impressive. The color scheme of the website is one of the most important aspects of the website design. Generally, the choice of colors depends on the products or services that you are selling. For instance if you have an environmental website then there might be a lot of green on your website; similarly, if your website is related to water, sky etc. then there might be a lot of blue. While selecting the colors of your website, it is also important to think about your target audience. Yes, you read it right! For instance, red denotes danger, love or passion in the western countries while it signifies purity in India and celebration in China. Orange represents autumn, Halloween or creativity in most of the western countries. Therefore in order to avoid any overhaul while targeting a new market, it is crucial to select the color schemes carefully.
No one will visit your website only for the design. The online marketing mantra ‘Content is King’ always holds true. It is extremely important to offer useful content for the domestic and international visitors. Creating content for the international markets consists of a two-way process: Localization and Optimization.
For the localization aspect, you need to have a professionally qualified translator for each of your target market. If you seriously want to make money from your international websites, then you must consider the dialects as well. For instance, many words have distinct meanings in French (France), Belgium, Swiss and Canadian French. ‘Lunch’ is known as ‘déjeuner’ in France, but it is known as ‘dîner’ in Belgium and Switzerland; whereas In France, ‘dîner’ is referred to as evening meal. Therefore you must know the local dialects in order to be reachable to a wide range of people. If you would like to achieve something through your global endeavors, then you must treat every target market as a separate entity.
Use minimum Flash content on your website. This helps in simplifying the translation of your website. The main reason behind this is that the Flash content is difficult to edit, copy and to carry word counts; these processes are vital for the translation process. Moreover, words are important for the search engines to analyze your website. The fact is that it is hard for the search engines to detect words embedded in the Flash files; therefore websites having a lot of Flash are not very SEO friendly.
When it comes to optimizing your website for the international markets, avoid directly translating all the keywords and phrases through any English language website. People might make the use of abbreviations, synonyms or acronyms for searching a product on a local basis. Therefore it is crucial for you to research on the terms used by the customers for searching products / services in each of your target market.
Once you have finalized on the phrases, incorporate them in your professionally translated website.
Having the same domain for all the target countries might sound cheaper and easier, however from the search engine optimization point of view, it is better to have a dedicated top-level domain (TLD) that is specific to each of your target countries. For instance, you can have ‘.co.uk’ for United Kingdom or ‘.co.in’ for India. Search engines utilize the top-level domain in order to determine the location of the website (known as ‘geo-location’). Geo-targeting is a crucial aspect as it affects your website position in terms of the country-specific search engines (such as Google UK (google.co.uk) and Google India (google.co.in).
Similarly, you can also host each of your domains in your target country. This is because the search engines utilize this information for determining the location of your website. The site address of the domain you buy is also crucial as Google detects the words in the URL as well. For example, if your company is in the production of software, then you might want to have the word ‘software’ in the URL of your website and preferably this should also be translated in the language of your target country.
Establishing websites in multiple languages is a challenging venture. If you plan on having just one domain for hosting various multi-language versions of your website, make sure that you are creating a distinct sub-domain.
Navigation is one of the most important aspects of the website designing process. The two most crucial factors that help the internet users in finding your website are – ‘consistency’ and ‘landmarking’. Therefore, it is highly important for the navigation to be intuitive. If there is a vertical menu bar present on the left hand side of the website for the English version, then preferably you should have this bar on the right hand side for the countries that read from right to left like Arabic. This is not highly important as you can have the menus on either side of the page, everything depends on how you would like your website to appear to the visitors. You can also make the use of a horizontal menu bar in order to avoid any changes.
You can also consider creating an ‘entrance page’ for your website where the visitors can select the language of their preference. Or you can have English as the default language and provide with options for switching to the other language. Some website owners make the use of the ‘IP2Country’ services through which the country of the visitor is automatically detected on the basis of his/her IP address. This can be done by adding some simple and dynamic code on your website. However, this method might not always be reliable so it’s always better to leave the language selection to the user.
And it’s all done! These are the basic aspects that you need to consider while setting up a multi-lingual website. All the best…you are all set to conquer the world!