Website translation

5 Website Localization Issues to Avoid

5 Website Localization Issues to Avoid
Sean O'Hare
Written by
Sean O'Hare
Sean O'Hare
Written by
Sean O'Hare
Reviewed
Sean O'Hare
Reviewed by
Updated on
September 26, 2023

For any business seeking to enhance its user experience and level of personalization on its site, localization is the way to go. But what does localization mean? Let’s start with the basics of website localization.

Defined by the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) as the process of  “adapting a product, an offering, or simply content to a specific locale or market”, localization is what allows companies to have success in different geographic areas and across borders.

Localization is very much a necessity for a business with global ambition, because the needs, attitudes, and expectations of customers vary greatly from region to region. 

When thinking about localization, translation is probably the most obvious thing that comes to mind, after all, what better way to enhance the user experience than by providing content in different languages to help you enter new markets?

Localization Issues -Website localization involves all the actions taken to personalize offerings to different consumer groups

However, localization goes beyond addressing language barriers and also looks at cultural nuances, societal norms, and preferences. So when we reflect on it, we can consider localization to involve all the actions taken to personalize offerings to different target markets.  

Given its various components and considerations, localization can be a challenging task to get right. With this in mind, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest issues to avoid when it comes to localizing your own website! 

Localization challenges

#1 Choosing the wrong translation method

Localization Issues -Website Translation Method

Translation usually forms the starting point of any localization process and it’s important to choose a translation solution that finds the right balance between speed, accuracy, ease of maintenance, and cost. 

Generally, when it comes to website translation you have two options:

Localization Issues -Machine Translations versus Human Translation

Human Translations: Going down this route for your translations involves hiring professional translators who will then translate all your site on a page-by-page basis. Professional translators can be trusted to provide you with accurate and high-quality translations. 

However, other things should be considered before jumping at this option. Firstly, think of the technical aspects behind a multilingual site, professional translators won’t be able to assist you when it comes to integrating these translations onto your site.

The next thing you need to think about is cost. Professional translations are expensive, and if you’ve got thousands of pages to translate – this option quickly becomes infeasible. 

Human translation: This involves hiring professional translators who will then translate all your site on a page-by-page basis. Professional translators can be trusted to provide you with accurate and high-quality translations. 

However, other things should be considered before jumping at this option. Firstly, think of the technical aspects behind a multilingual site, professional translators won’t be able to assist you when it comes to integrating these translations onto your site.

The second consideration is cost. Professional translations are expensive, and if you’ve got thousands of pages to translate – this option quickly becomes difficult. 

Machine translation (automation): On the flip side of this, machine translation is another choice when it comes to addressing your multilingual needs but by no means is the end of the process. While the question of translation quality is often raised, machine translation is shown to be improving in accuracy year after year.

Above all, it offers a speedy and cost-effective translation option. It’s also a great way to kick-start your website translation process and allows you to refine the translations to meet your own translation quality requirements. 

Weglot strikes the right balance by giving you access to machine, human editing, and professional translation giving you the option to personalize your translation workflow. And, importantly, it displays the content of your website too.

In this way, you can get the best of both in terms of both cost and translation quality. Weglot also comes with an intuitive translation management user interface making it easy to manually edit translations, exclude translations, create glossaries, and much more.

#2 Ignoring design considerations

Localization Issues -Computer website design

The next step to avoid is not considering thoroughly the design of your website. When translating your website for localization purposes, it’s important to recognize the role of your site’s design in this

Regardless of the CMS you’re using, one of the first things you should consider is using a well-developed theme for your site. Make sure that your chosen theme is widely compatible with other apps and plugins that can enhance your site’s functionality, that it uses RTL (right-to-left) formatting for languages such as Arabic, and that it’s well structured and designed. Alternatively, if you opt for a custom theme, make sure you incorporate all of the above into your design. 

When it comes to incorporating your translated content into your site’s design, you’ll need to be mindful of what this will look like. This is because languages not only differ in sound and syntax but also in terms of the space words occupy in a given sentence. 

As a result of this, it’s important to consider this when designing your site by leaving plenty of space in your design to cater to discrepancies and variations associated with translating from one language to another.

Failure to anticipate this could result in things such as broken strings and overlapping text, which are far from ideal when you’re trying to entice new customers with your offering.It also helps to avoid custom fonts on your site. Often these customized fonts are not easily translatable and can cause unnecessary difficulty when going multilingual.

#3 Not considering cultural context

Localization Issues - Map that highlights cultural context

As previously mentioned, localization is not just about translation, it’s also important to localize with respect to particular geographic regions. So, even if two countries may have the same first language, they can also have a number of distinct differences meaning you’ll have to tailor your commercial approach to localized language. 

Doing this successfully involves a consideration of the cultural context of each of the markets you’re targeting or operating in. For example, English is the first language of both the UK and the US, however, these countries are in fact very disparate.

Even for things as simple as spelling and terminology, it’s important to recognize the differences between the two. So, if you’re a travel agency in the United Kingdom targeting American customers, you may want to localize certain aspects of your site by using the American-English spelling of words, for example, “customise” to “customize”, or ‘holidays’ to the more commonly used “vacation”.

It’s also prudent to consider any images or media on your website. Why? In the same way that you may translate text so that foreign audiences can understand, you may wish to do the same with imagery. Such as providing replacement product shots for your ecommerce site that suit the market demands more appropriately, or screenshots that include text to better explain your software. This goes further with considerations of cultural nuances between the different new markets you’re targeting. In countries such as Qatar, Japan, etc. holidays such as Christmas and Easter aren’t celebrated so it would be advisable to adapt any holiday-specific content in order to be relevant to the region you’re targeting.

#4 Picking the wrong translation technology

Localization Issues - Picking the wrong translation technology

One thing you definitely don’t want to get wrong when localizing is picking the wrong translation technology. This is because different translation solutions deal with your content in different ways, some of which are not considered best practices for multi-language sites.

Your multilingual website architecture should avoid at all costs the use of duplicate pages or websites. The reason for this is because duplicate pages and sites are can be heavily penalized by search engines when it comes to ranking highly on search engine result pages. 

Ideally, the localized versions of your site should live under the same URL as your original language within language-specific subdomains or subdirectories. Under this architecture, duplicate content penalties from Google are avoided. To illustrate these different URL structures, say you have your original website in English perhaps, and are translating to French:

Original site URL: www.mywebsite.com
Subdirectory:
www.mywebsite.com/fr/
Subdomain:
 fr.mywebsite.com

The same goes for the way in which your content is translated. Translating content server-side and in the source code of your site ensures search engines can correctly detect and rank it, as opposed to the JavaScript method whereby search engines only see the original content, not the translated version.  Weglot not only automatically sets up your language-specific subdomains or subdirectories (depending on your CMS), but it also automatically deals with other beneficial localization features such as the implementation of hreflang tags. These tags or attributes help search engines to determine both the language of the page and which region it is intended for.

#5 Forgetting about international SEO

Localization Issues - Multiling SEO World and Search Icon

With your website ready for customers around the globe, at the minimum, you’ll want to make sure they can actually find it when browsing online. This is where a good multilingual SEO strategy comes in.

Multilingual SEO is essentially just doing everything you already do for domestic-level SEO, but for every language version of your site.

Successful multilingual SEO involves translating the entirety of your site’s content, translating any metadata on your site, adding hreflang tags, as well as having language-specific subdomains/directories. Following these aspects will optimize your site for search engines and give you international visibility. 

Looking after your multilingual SEO will make your site and its offering discoverable to visitors all over the world who are searching in foreign languages.

Conclusion

When we localize, we personalize, making website localization a critical consideration for any business or organization. Of course, given the vast range of things to consider, this can often seem like a complicated prospect for businesses seeking international growth.

Luckily, localization efforts are now greatly facilitated by a number of smart tools and solutions that can take the pain out of localization and help you to avoid the common pitfalls experienced by many businesses.

Why not try out Weglot’s 10-day free trial to get your localization strategy off and running?

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