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5 Best Practices for a Multilingual Website

Posted by Anne Q. on December 18, 2023.

Multilingual websites are websites that allow content to be displayed in different languages, serving customers from various countries or regions. Creating a multilingual website is an indispensable step when businesses plan to expand their scale to international customers and boost global sales.

The process of translating a website into multiple languages, however, is not just as simple as translating all text or adapting graphics. It requires your attention to both the linguistic and technical aspects of your website.

Our article today will point out the benefits of having a website in multiple languages and give you 5 best practices for creating an effective multilingual website for your business.


Reaching more multinational clients

Assuming that having a website available in English is enough to reach global clients is a common misconception many people make. The truth is, 72% of consumers spend most of their time on websites in their own language. If you want to reach more multinational clients and boost your global sales, a multilingual website is your assistant.

Showing that you care

Having a well-localized multilingual website also contributes to a better brand image for your business. It shows that your company respects and cares enough for a specific market to make efforts to adjust your products and website to suit its language and culture.

In addition, it creates a competitive edge for your business as 82% of shoppers are more likely to buy if promotional material is in their own language. If your website is multilingual and your competitor is not, you will have a huge advantage.

Building trust in your audiences

Do you know 40% of global consumers won’t buy in other languages? When communicating with your audiences in their own languages, you can avoid regretful miscommunication and misunderstanding and provide your audiences with clear and accurate products/services information in a language that they are fluent in. This is the key to convincing more audiences to trust your brand and make a purchase.

Improving SEO ranking of your website

According to Google, about 20% of all the billions of online searches were carried out in the local languages, compared to only 2% in 2014. The figures speak for themselves. People have a tendency to search more in their own languages. That means without being optimized in your audiences’ native languages, your website will not be displayed in the search results.

A multilingual website with optimized keywords, meta-tag information, etc. ensures on-page SEO of your website in a new market and generate more organic website traffic.



Putting the language switcher in the appropriate place

The first thing a user search for when visiting a website that is not in their language or a language they can understand is the language switcher button. This button should be easy to detect; otherwise, the visitors will get frustrated and leave after some failed attempts to find the button.

Language Switcher for a Multilingual Website

Image Source: Strikingly

Where is the ideal position to put the language switcher? Your multilingual website contains a large amount of text and graphics. So try to make the button as easy and outstanding to see as possible. The most chosen option is in the upper right corner of your website. This is likely the first place a user sees when looking for the switcher. Another option is to put it at the footer of your website.

Language Switcher

The language switcher is displayed at the bottom of the website

Using a flag icon beside the name of the language will also help your audiences recognize the language quicker, improving their user experience.


Paying attention to the system of units

While most countries in the world are using the metric measurement systems, three countries including the US, Myanmar and Liberia are familiar with the imperial systems. When reading product specifications, a client in Vietnam cannot immediately imagine what an 8-inch tall bottle looks like. He needs to take another step of converting inches into centimetres. This step takes time and not everyone is patient enough to convert all product specifications. Some simply leave and find another brand that provides them with a more convenient solution.

So when working on a multilingual website, please do not overlook the type of unit system that your target market is using and try your best to localize these elements, giving your audiences the easiest way to understand your products or services information.


Customizing web layout for different countries

The design of your website is the first thing your customers see before they even read the content. Thus, having a well-designed website might keep visitors on your site longer. One thing to remember is that it is common for a website layout to be considered eye-catching in a market, but not be favoured in others. This is due to the differences in people’s aesthetics from different cultures.

For a successful multilingual website, what you need goes beyond just translation. You need to consider re-arrange or re-design your website for a new market. Below are three elements you should pay extra attention to:

    • Colours – Each colour carries its own meaning which is not the same in every country and culture. Colours affect people’s moods and behaviour. To persuade audiences to buy more, your choice of colour must be wise. A great example of using colours for multilingual websites is McDonald’s. For most markets, the classic yellow and red colours of the brand’s logo are used for the websites. However, when it comes to some European markets where people care a lot about the environment and healthy food, the brand decided to use two colours – yellow and green which create the feeling of fresh and organic food.

      • Design Preference – Some countries prefer minimal websites with little text and many graphics while others are inclined to dense content and small or no images. This can be illustrated by the case of Japanese websites. Text is heavily used while the images are limited. This is due to the Japanese preference for quickly getting clear and full information from a website page. 
    • Japanese website
      • Text orientation – Most languages are read from left to right. Thus, when localizing a website into languages that have an opposite text orientation such as Arabic, it requires a lot of work to adapt the layout of the website.


Accommodating a range of global internet speeds

The Internet speed in the world varies greatly. Having your website loaded quickly in South Korea – one of the countries with the highest Internet speed does not mean it will load well in Venezuela which has relatively slow Internet speed.

When building your multilingual website for different markets, you might need to adjust, optimize or remove some elements that make the loading process slower (such as heavy graphics) to provide users with a better experience.


Using human translators

To minimize translating costs, some businesses think about using automatic translation tools which give instant results at almost no cost. It sounds promising and attractive but you can’t fall for it. Automatic translation tools such as Google Translate, Bing Translate and DeepL, even though having been continuously improved, still cannot bring you ready-to-publish translations.

The most notable drawback of these tools is the lack of context and culture understanding. Thus, the involvement of professional linguists is a must to guarantee a quality outcome. If your budget is limited, then you can consider using MTPE – machine translation post-editing (by human editors).


Wrap up

Building a multilingual website is no easy task, which requires the involvement of both linguists and technical experts. Nevertheless, the benefits it brings will make all the time and money you invest worthwhile. By following the 5 aforementioned practices, we hope your business will succeed in creating websites for your potential foreign markets.

multilingual website cta

If you are looking for professional website localization services from market experts, look no further than GTE Localize. We provide comprehensive services by 100% native experienced linguists at the most value-for-money rate. Contact us for free consultancy.