What should you think about?
In my post Things to think about when creating a website I wrote about things that are worth thinking about once you’ve decided to create a website. It’s a matter of deciding which information you want to reach out with, but also what your target group is looking for – so that they actually visit your particular website and are interested enough to stay. In other words, the information and functionality you offer is important, but there are also other things to consider.
Easily accessible language versions
You should decide which languages you need early on (see Things to think about when creating a website), and you should also think about how users will find and navigate to the different language versions on your website. Depending on who your target groups are, it can make a big difference if the visitor chooses a language version by clicking on a flag or the name of a language or country. Using the names of countries or flags signifies a geographical demarcation, which may be entirely appropriate if you are providing local information for just one country (locally available products, local contact details, etc.). If, however, you intend to refer to a language, using a flag or a country name will be a restriction. For example, there is no flag that clearly includes all Arabic speakers or all Spanish speakers. Nor is there any single country for certain languages, such as Kurdish or traditional Chinese. Think through the best ways of reaching your target groups and how they perceive the design so that you appeal to as many as possible.
You also need to think about how language versions of your website will be displayed, for example by changing the language of the open window or by opening a new window. Here, it is appropriate to take technical conditions and what your target groups feel comfortable with as your starting point.
Whatever you decide, it’s important that you make it clear and simple for visitors who reach your site and want to continue to other language or country versions. Try to think about how users think and click around – an easily navigated website is often seen as a good website.
Visual cultural adaptation
Appearance is also incredibly important to how a website is perceived. Here, you need to be aware that different countries and cultures can have different perceptions of what is attractive, efficient, confidence-inspiring and informative.
The aesthetics of different cultures affect many different aspects of the website: colours, symbols, images, the positioning of menus, reading direction, the relationship between the amount of text and images, etc. It is not a foregone conclusion that you will need to produce different editions for different languages, but you should look into how the target groups are affected in your intended markets. It should be your goal to be able to make a well-founded decision that suits your particular company.
You could start by taking a look at websites from the countries or geographic areas in question. Think about how your own graphic profile would fit in. If possible, speak with local representatives or your local sales organisation and get feedback. Contact an experienced translation agency or language company, since we in the industry tend to have in-depth experience and an extensive international network at our disposal. It is important that you get the data you need in order to decide what to do in your own specific situation.
Most people expect to find both general and locally specific information on a website, but this is not always the right way to go about things. You need to decide which information should be the same for all language versions and which should be local. You may even need to add information that differs completely between the various language versions.
Examples of universal information could include company or organisation information. Your history, vision and service or product offering may also be the same in all language versions, while local information might include contact details, opening hours, local projects, etc.
Search engine optimisation
One important point to spend a little extra time on when creating a website is search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is all about putting the right text in the right place so that a search engine (such as Bing or Google) can list websites based on their relevance to a search. As a company you probably have an idea about when you want to be Googled and found, and that’s where SEO can help.
When it comes to SEO, having a good structure for your web texts and following standard writing rules will go a long way. However, it may be worth contacting a professional SEO specialist to discuss and get help with finding the right level, especially since the rules can change over time and vary from country to country and from language to language.
I’ve already written about internationalisation, localisation and globalisation. We have also published posts on colours that can have different associations in different languages.