Making a website multilingual means enabling it to display content in multiple languages. This allows users from different countries and regions to view and interact with the site in their preferred language, improving its accessibility and reach. A multilingual website typically includes a language switcher that allows users to switch between languages, as well as separate pages or sections for each language. The process of making a website multilingual involves translating the text and other content on the site into multiple languages, and ensuring that all elements of the site, such as links, forms, and dynamic content, work correctly in each language. Making a website multilingual can greatly increase its reach and accessibility to a global audience.
How to achieve this:
Here’s how to do it:
Determine which languages to support
“Determining which languages to support” refers to the process of selecting which languages should be made available on a multilingual website. This decision should be based on factors such as the target audience, the resources available for translation and localization, and the potential return on investment.
For example, if your target audience is primarily located in Spanish-speaking countries, it may be a priority to offer a Spanish version of your website. On the other hand, if you want to reach a global audience, you may consider supporting multiple languages, such as English, French, Spanish, German, and so on.
It’s also important to consider the resources available for translation and localization. Translating a website into multiple languages can be a time-consuming and costly process, so it’s important to make sure that you have the resources to effectively support the languages you choose to offer.
Plan for language switching
“Planning for language switching” refers to the process of determining how users will switch between different languages on a multilingual website. This involves deciding on the location and design of the language switcher, as well as how users will access the different language versions of the site.
There are several different approaches to language switching. One approach is to include a language switcher in the header or footer of the site, which allows users to select their preferred language from a dropdown menu or a list of flags. Another approach is to have a separate page for each language, with links to the other language versions in the header or footer of the site.
When planning for language switching, it’s important to consider the user experience. The language switcher should be easy to find and use, and switching between languages should be a seamless process. The language switcher should also be accessible from all pages of the site so that users can switch languages at any time.
It’s also important to consider the technical aspects of language switching. For example, you may need to implement cookies or URL parameters to store the user’s language preference and ensure that they are taken to the correct language version of the site.
Translate your content
“Translating your content” refers to the process of converting the text and other content on a website into another language or languages. This is a crucial step in making a website multilingual and requires a high level of linguistic expertise and attention to detail.
Translating content involves converting all the text on a website, including headings, menus, buttons, and any other written content, into the target language or languages. It’s important to choose a professional translator or translation service that is familiar with the source language and the target language, as well as the subject matter of the website.
It’s also important to consider cultural differences and regional variations when translating content. For example, some words and phrases may have different meanings or connotations in different cultures, and images or symbols may be interpreted differently.
After the translation is complete, it’s important to thoroughly review and test the translated content to make sure that it’s accurate and that all links, forms, and other dynamic content work correctly in each language.
Consider cultural differences
“Considering cultural differences” refers to the process of taking into account the cultural differences between the target audience and the source language when making a website multilingual. Culture can influence how users perceive and interact with a website, and it’s important to be aware of cultural differences when creating a multilingual site.
For example, some colours, images, and symbols may have different meanings in different cultures, and some words and phrases may be offensive or have different connotations in different languages. It’s important to consider these cultural differences when translating the content and design of a website, in order to ensure that the site is culturally appropriate and effective for each target audience.
Additionally, cultural differences can also affect the user experience. For example, users from different cultures may have different expectations for navigation, layout, and the overall look and feel of a website. It’s important to take these cultural differences into account when designing the user interface and user experience for a multilingual website.
Use a plugin or extension
“Using a plugin or extension” refers to utilizing pre-made software tools to help with the process of making a website multilingual. These tools, known as plugins or extensions, can be added to a website to help manage the translation process, switch between languages, and ensure that the site is fully functional in each language.
Plugins and extensions can automate many of the tasks involved in making a website multilingual, such as translating text, storing translations, and handling language switching. They can also provide features such as machine translation, translation memory, and professional translation services.
Using a plugin or extension can simplify the process of making a website multilingual and save time and resources compared to developing a custom solution. It’s important to choose a plugin or extension that is compatible with the website platform and that meets the specific needs of the site.
Examples of popular plugins and extensions for making a website multilingual include WPML for WordPress, Polylang for WordPress, and TranslatePress for WordPress and other platforms.
Store translations in separate files
“Storing translations in separate files” refers to organizing the translated content for a multilingual website in separate files, rather than hardcoding the text into HTML or other source code. This makes it easier to manage the translations, switch between languages, and maintain the site over time.
When storing translations in separate files, each language version of the site is stored in a separate file or set of files. The files can be organized in a variety of ways, such as by language, by page, or by content type. The main website code can then reference these files to dynamically display the correct text for each language.
This approach has several advantages. For example, it allows for easy separation of the source code and the translated content, making it easier to update the site or add new languages in the future. It also makes it easier to manage the translation process, as the translators can work on the text in separate files without having to modify the main website code.
Overall, storing translations in separate files is a best practice for making a website multilingual and can simplify the development and maintenance process.
Use a language switcher
“Using a language switcher” refers to providing a way for users to switch between different language versions of a website. A language switcher is a feature that allows users to select their preferred language and view the site in that language. This is an essential aspect of making a website multilingual, as it allows users to choose the language they are most comfortable with and provides a seamless experience for multilingual users.
A language switcher can take many forms, such as a drop-down menu, a list of flags, or a set of buttons. The language switcher can be placed in a prominent location, such as the header or footer of the site, to make it easily accessible to users.
When using a language switcher, it’s important to consider the user experience and make sure that switching between languages is easy and intuitive. It’s also important to make sure that the language switcher is accessible and works correctly on different devices and platforms.
In addition to a language switcher, it’s also important to make sure that the URL structure and site navigation are consistent across all language versions of the site. This helps with SEO and makes it easier for users to find the content they are looking for.
Overall, using a language switcher is an important step in making a website multilingual and helps provide a seamless and user-friendly experience for multilingual users.
Test your site
“Testing your site” refers to the process of checking and verifying that a multilingual website is functioning correctly and providing a high-quality user experience. Testing is an important step in the process of making a website multilingual, as it helps ensure that the site is working as intended and that all language versions are accurate and complete.
Testing a multilingual site involves checking the functionality of the site, the accuracy of the translations, and the user experience in each language. This includes checking that the site navigation, links, and forms are working correctly and that the text and images are properly translated and displayed correctly.
It’s also important to test the site on different devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, to make sure that the site is responsive and functions correctly on different screen sizes and resolutions.
In addition to functional testing, it’s also important to test the site for accessibility, to make sure that users with disabilities can access and use the site. This includes testing for accessibility features such as alternative text for images, accessible forms, and keyboard navigation.
Testing is an ongoing process, and it’s important to regularly check and update the site to ensure that it continues to function correctly and provide a high-quality user experience.
Overall, testing is a crucial step in making a website multilingual and helps ensure that the site is accurate, accessible, and provides a high-quality experience for users in multiple languages.
Maintain your site
“Maintaining your site” refers to the ongoing process of updating, modifying, and keeping a multilingual website functioning correctly and providing a high-quality user experience. Maintaining a multilingual site is an ongoing process that requires ongoing effort to keep the site up-to-date, accurate, and accessible to users.
Some common tasks involved in maintaining a multilingual site include:
- Updating content: Regularly updating the content on a site, including both text and images, is an important part of maintaining a multilingual site. This includes updating the content in all language versions of the site to ensure that they are all accurate and up-to-date.
- Adding new languages: As new users from different countries and language groups access the site, it may be necessary to add new language versions. This requires translating the content into the new language and integrating it into the site.
- Managing translations: Maintaining the translations for a multilingual site involves coordinating with translators, checking the accuracy of the translations, and making updates as necessary.
- Testing: Regularly testing the site to ensure that it’s functioning correctly and providing a high-quality user experience. This includes testing the site on different devices, testing the accessibility of the site, and testing the translations for accuracy.
- Monitoring performance: Monitoring the performance of the site, including site traffic, conversion rates, and user engagement, can help identify areas that need improvement and inform future updates to the site.
Overall, maintaining a multilingual site is an ongoing process that requires ongoing effort and attention. By regularly updating the site, checking its functionality, and monitoring performance, you can ensure that the site continues to provide a high-quality experience for users in multiple languages.
Use automatic translation
“Using automatic translation” refers to using machine translation technology to translate the content of a website into multiple languages. Automatic translation involves using software programs or APIs that use algorithms and language models to translate text from one language to another.
Using automatic translation can be a fast and cost-effective way to make a website multilingual, especially for sites with large amounts of content. However, it’s important to keep in mind that automatic translation is not always accurate, and the quality of the translations can vary depending on the complexity of the text and the language being translated.
While automatic translation can be a useful tool for quickly generating rough translations, it’s important to have a professional translator review the translations and make any necessary corrections. This is because automatic translation may not capture cultural differences or subtleties in language that are important for communicating effectively with users in different languages.
In some cases, automatic translation may also be subject to legal restrictions and may not be permitted for certain types of content.
Overall, while automatic translation can be a useful tool for making a website multilingual, it’s important to use it in conjunction with professional translation and to review the translations for accuracy and cultural sensitivity.
Optimize for search engines
“Optimizing for search engines” refers to the process of improving the visibility and ranking of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords and phrases. This is especially important for multilingual websites, as users may be searching for content in different languages and regions.
To optimize a multilingual website for search engines, you can follow these best practices:
- Use hreflang tags: Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that help search engines understand the language and geographical targeting of a website’s pages. By using hreflang tags, you can indicate to search engines which version of a page should be shown to users in specific countries and languages.
- Use local domains or subdirectories: Having a separate domain or subdirectory for each language version of the site can help search engines understand the language and geographical targeting of the site.
- Use targeted keywords: Targeting specific keywords and phrases that are relevant to each language version of the site can help improve the visibility of the site in search results for those languages.
- Create high-quality content: Providing high-quality, relevant, and engaging content in each language version of the site can help improve the site’s ranking in search results and attract users.
- Optimize the site structure: Optimizing the site structure, including the URL structure, title tags, and meta descriptions, can help search engines understand the structure and content of the site and improve its visibility in search results.
Overall, optimizing a multilingual website for search engines is an important step in making the site more visible and accessible to users in different languages and regions. By following best practices and targeting specific keywords and regions, you can help improve the site’s ranking in search results and attract more users.
Consider language-specific SEO
“Consider language-specific SEO” means taking into account the unique search engine optimization (SEO) considerations and best practices that are specific to each language version of a multilingual website.
Language-specific SEO can help improve the visibility and ranking of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords and phrases in each language. This can help increase the site’s traffic and attract users who are searching for content in specific languages.
Some language-specific SEO considerations include:
- Keyword research: Conducting keyword research in each language can help identify the most relevant and frequently used keywords and phrases that users are searching for.
- Content optimization: Optimizing the content in each language version of the site for specific keywords and phrases can help improve the visibility of the site in search results.
- Localization: Customizing the site to meet the specific cultural and linguistic needs of users in different countries and regions can help improve the user experience and increase the site’s ranking in search results.
- Link building: Building high-quality, relevant links from other sites in each language can help improve the visibility of the site in search results.
Overall, considering language-specific SEO is an important step in optimizing a multilingual website for search engines. By taking into account the unique considerations and best practices for each language version of the site, you can help improve the site’s visibility and ranking in search results and attract more users in different languages and regions.
Making a website multilingual can be a complex process, but it is well worth the effort if you want to reach a global audience. Just remember to plan carefully, translate accurately, test thoroughly, and maintain regularly to ensure the success of your multilingual site.