Whether your business is strictly e-Commerce or a combination of a brick-and-mortar operation supported by a website, chances are you rely heavily on your site to connect with current and potential customers. In today’s global marketplace, your clients could be located anywhere or speak virtually any language. So it makes sense to create a website that connects with people no matter what language they speak. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as daunting as it may sound to create a multilingual website. It’s simply a matter of taking it one step at a time.

Translations

You’ll never connect with customers if they can’t understand the content of your site. So the first and most important step in creating a multilingual website is to have your text translated into the target language by an experienced professional translator – preferably a native speaker. Only someone with years of experience in translating can understand the nuances of the language. We’ve all come across websites that have been poorly translated, and most people will skip over those sites altogether.

SEO

If you don’t pay enough attention to search engine optimization (SEO), all your translation efforts may go to waste. Keywords will vary from one language to the next. It’s important to understand which words and phrases are most effective for each language, and make sure you utilize those in your translations. This is a time-consuming process, but the success of your website may well hinge on it.

Page Layout

Remember that different languages are read differently on a page. English speakers, for example, read from left to right. But many speakers of languages based in Asia and the Middle East read from right to left. Others may read from the top of the page to the bottom. Make sure that your page layout accommodates the language, including placement of images.

Design

It’s important to keep in mind that the images and colors of your site may be interpreted (or misinterpreted) differently depending on the culture of the reader. Some images that are perfectly acceptable in Western countries may be considered offensive or inappropriate in the Middle East, for example. Colors can also evoke different emotions depending on the culture of the visitor to your site. In the West, the color red often signifies love or power, for instance, but in South Africa red is the color of mourning.

Usability

Remember to make it easy for customers to use your site. Providing icons of flags from different countries may work for visitors who are choosing which language to see on the site, for example. When making decisions regarding navigation, try to approach it from a critical eye to make sure that your navigation tools will make sense for everyone, no matter what language they speak or where they live.

Creating an effective multilingual website can – almost literally – open your business to a whole new world of customers. Just make sure that your translations are precise and accurate, and that you maintain a sensitivity to people from other countries and cultures.