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As globalization is increasing, expanding your online presence to connect to a global audience has become a necessity for businesses. One of the ways that you can reach an interconnected audience is by designing a multi-language website. According to a survey done in 29 countries, around 76% of people prefer to buy products with information in their native language.
Whether you're a multinational corporation, an e-commerce business, a non-profit organization, or a blogger providing SEO services, creating a website that can effectively communicate in multiple languages can help you increase your engagement substantially.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through the process of designing a multi-language website, explaining the creative procedure, and some important tips that will help you throughout the whole process.
Designing a multi-language website is a complex procedure, but it can be very fruitful for your business. Since you are catering to a global audience, you open up doors to new opportunities. Let’s take a look at 15 tips for designing a multi-language website:
A good user experience is the foundation of any successful web design. To make the users stay on your website for longer and give them a satisfying online experience, your website needs to be easy to navigate; it should load quickly and offer a consistent and pleasant experience across all languages.
For a multi-language website, it's really important that you establish an effective information structure for your audience. Plan clear and well-organized menus and site maps, making sure that they accommodate the needs of all the languages you are catering to.
Select a font that is readable in multiple languages. Fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Open Sans are known for their versatility. Make sure your chosen fonts can display special characters from different scripts without sacrificing readability.
If you’ve translated text before, you know that different languages can affect text length. When designing, keep this in mind, and remain flexible. It’s better to use responsive layouts and designs so the length variations do not disrupt the overall structure.
Pay special attention to avoid using images, graphics, or icons with specific cultural connotations, as they might not resonate with all your audiences. Try to choose neutral images that have more of a universal appeal.
While translating might make your website accessible for people with different languages, it won’t necessarily resonate with them. Localizing your content means adapting it to the cultural norms and preferences of each of your target audiences so they can feel a personal connection to your brand or business.
Many websites offer multi-language options, but one mistake they fail to register is making the option clear and visible. If you want your audience to use the option and easily navigate your website, you need to place it somewhere where they can quickly catch and recognize it.
Optimize your multi-language website for search engines. Use hreflang tags to specify language and geographic targeting, create unique URLs for each language, and incorporate localized keywords and meta tags for improved SEO.
If you want your website to be truly accessible to people, without any barriers, you also need to make it inclusive for all types of users, including those with disabilities. For this, you need to make sure that your multi-language websites meet all the recognized accessibility standards. You should also provide features like alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and other accessibility best practices.
Different languages may require different font sizes, line spacing, and text alignments for optimal readability. Test your design with various languages to ensure that content remains legible and visually appealing on every type of device that can be used to access the internet.
If you have any multimedia content, like an audio or video on your website, you need to provide subtitles for them to make the content accessible to users who may not speak the original language or have any hearing impairment. This enhances user engagement and comprehension.
Simply checking your website once or twice before launching is never enough. To make sure that you don’t run into any issues later on, try and check its functionality, visibility, aesthetics, etc. on different browsers and devices. The goal is to get a consistent and pleasant experience so nothing seems amiss to your users.
If your site allows user-generated content such as comments or reviews, offer language-specific sections or filters. However, you should also put up some moderation systems that can handle content in various languages and support users in reporting inappropriate content.
If you have any forms on your website, like ones for queries, they should be designed to accommodate different languages, including longer or shorter text fields. Consider using placeholders for examples or instructions to make form completion easier for users of all languages.
Sometimes in multi-language websites, changing a language causes a drastic change to its outlook and functionality, which immediately leaves a negative impression on the user. This is why, while adapting your design for various languages, you need to maintain a consistent brand identity and user interface. Users should recognize your website regardless of the language they are viewing.
Let’s break down the process of building a multi-language website into short actionable steps to make the process easier for you.
Before you start creating the website, you need to figure out what are your target audiences and the languages they speak. Check what regions your potential customers reside in and find out more about them, their cultures, languages, etc. so you can create a better and localized experience for them.
Next, you need to select a Content Management System (CMS) or website builders for your website. There are many popular CMS platforms available where you can design and manage the content for your multi-language website, like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. You can also choose website builders like Wix and Squarespace. Just make sure that you are familiar with the features of the platform you choose and that it aligns with your website’s goals.
Determine whether you want to create separate subdomains for each language, or you want to create a single website domain with multiple languages as linked pages. In the former case, your website URL would look more like "en.yourwebsite.com" for English and "fr.yourwebsite.com" for French. On the other hand, if you decide on creating linked pages, you’d be working with something like “yourwebsite.com/en" for English and "yourwebsite.com/fr" for French.
If you're using a CMS like WordPress, install multi-language plugins or extensions. These tools simplify the process of managing content in multiple languages. Popular options include WPML, Polylang, or Joomla's native multilingual functionality. You might need to configure the plugin to support your chosen URL structure and languages.
Most often, multi-language plugins don’t correctly translate the content. For each region you are targeting, hire locals who are fluent in the language and well-versed in the culture or take services from a blog writing service. You’ll need to translate and adapt the content to the cultural preferences and sensitivities of each audience as they are the key to creating an effective multi-language website. Also, check your typography to see if the content looks good.
Once you have completed the translation, you need to add a user-friendly website-switching option. Some straightforward options include dropdown menus, flags for each country associated with a language, or language codes like “en” for English, “fr” for French, or “es” for Spanish. Make sure that they are placed in a place that’s prominent to the viewers for easy access.
To make sure your website ranks higher, implement SEO best practices for each language version of your website. Try and use region-specific, localized keywords and meta tags to improve search engine visibility. You can also create a unique URL structure for each language for better SEO.
Before launching your multi-language website, you should perform an extensive test to check for issues like broken links, missing content, device incompatibility, layout problems, etc. If everything is good to go, you are ready to showcase your multi-language website to the world. Keep in mind that building a website is not a one-time task; it’ll need ongoing maintenance and updates to make sure that it runs smoothly and serves its purpose.