10 Best Practices for Multilingual Website Design
The essence of multilingual website design is a proactive mindset.

Multilingual website design is a bit of a misleading phrase because it mainly highlights the graphic parts of a site that make up the user experience—without clearly identifying the underlying architecture needed to make it work. By thinking about it from an architectural standpoint, you’ll be better able to understand the actual scope of the task. You’re essentially rebuilding your website for a different language, and supporting that process are the behind-the-scenes components your visitors never see.

If more people thought of it this way, they’d understand why proactive planning is so necessary. More often than not, a company begins its design process strictly focused on English. However, because of that, they miss opportunities to internationalize their content early on and ensure they’ll be able to localize and translate it easily. That is the essence of multilingual website design: a proactive mindset.

9 Multilingual Website Design Best Practices to Get You Started

In our experience, a lot of companies find themselves working with three or four languages at a time. This complex project can quickly blow up without careful planning and best practices. Here are some important strategies you can implement to minimize problems in the localization process.

1. Establish the scope of the project.

Are you just localizing a few pages, the entire website, or specific sections? This scope-review will help guide you as you outline your plan and begin gathering your available assets. It will also help you assess the needed resources. A simple page or two of adaptations may not require a full-on localization process. But a complete website definitely will.

2. Audit your assets

Localization gets complicated very quickly. To navigate the complexity, you need to take a look at content requirements. If you’re dealing with a simple five-page website and you’re planning to translate only into Spanish, then it might be possible to do a simple copy/paste job with Google Translate. However, if you intend to add other languages in the future, you’re going to need a more robust solution—a partnership with expert localizers. Multimedia projects, in particular, call for expert assistance.

3. Outline the workflow

Are strings going to go live immediately following translation, or do they require an in-country review? Remember that the success of localization depends on the ultimate quality of your translations. Your workflow will need to account for various review and feedback cycles. A centralized platform can help you keep track of these tasks as they move through the pipeline. For any complex localization strategy, plan to develop agile localization workflows that will be flexible and responsive to the many moving components in your ecosystem.

4. Focus on the most significant use-case

What is the goal of the translated content? Is it to support an e-commerce site, provide news, or to fulfill orders? By knowing the most prominent use-case of the site, you can make that the central focus and build your other various platforms around it.

5. Create a local market payment plan

Don’t make the mistake of translating your content but failing to provide a local payment option so that visitors in foreign markets can actually seal the deal. The sooner you have these unique details in mind, the better. Unless you’re working with a third-party site that does currency conversions for you, like Paypal, you’re going to have to consider how your prices will change with the changes of the currency market. Payment processing and conversion fees will also require consideration to ensure a consistent pricing model across segments.

6. Plan for local date, time, and name conventions

There is no universal date and time format that simply will work on all sites. You must plan around these conventions to ensure your various forms and functions are accessible regardless of location. Likewise, don’t expect to be able to use your original forms with simple translations in foreign locales. Be sure to adapt important forms to suit local name and address conventions and any other considerations that will make the difference for sign-ups.

7. Make sure you have a culture match

It’s easy to overlook cultural norms in other regions when you’re translating content, but graphics, colors, and tone will all need to change for the market. Consider a Japanese website and how much it differs from an American one for the same brand. These sites are busy, typically make use of a lot of bright, bold colors—especially red—and may seem surprisingly chaotic to a non-Japanese viewer. However, the Japanese audience is used to engaging with such formatting. Failure to account for details like these may result in a relatively lackluster site with a high bounce rate.

8. Reevaluate SEO strategies

While you may be targeting some highly competitive phrases in English, there’s no guarantee that simple translations will generate equally valuable keywords. In order to make the most of multilingual SEO, you need to map out your key terms in other languages and find alternatives to target if the originals aren’t viable in translation.

9. Choose a CMS based on its localization capabilities

Most people will choose a CMS with a focus on features for monolingual use. However, they rarely ask, “Does it natively support localization?” Before you land on a CMS in the first place—like Drupal, WordPress, or Sitecore—ensure that it will line up with your global growth goals and be accessible to streamline content management in diverse languages. Otherwise, you’ll have to customize your solution, which can be an even more complex and frustrating process.

The 10th Most Important Multilingual Site Design Best Practice

Perhaps the most crucial step in multilingual website design is choosing the right partner. Lots of companies offer translation services, but for a complex problem, that’s not all you’re going to need. You’ll also need a robust localization management platform to support your project and allow you to keep track of everything as it moves through the system and goes live in the target country. That partner should also be able to provide you with clear reporting that helps you to see how and where you’re spending on a granular level. This is the recipe for a strong ROI with localization.

Multilingual website design is never going to be easy. Still, if you break it down to steps, it’s much simpler to build an appropriate architecture that supports even the most intricate designs. Working with a partner will ensure that you can tackle this task and exceed your global goals.

Bureau Works can help you tackle multilingual website design with ease. Our platform integrates with most standard content management systems, and we have our own team of expert translators. You can look forward to seamless, efficient workflows. Contact our team for more details.

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