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The global marketplace doesn’t operate in English alone. Here are the insights and info you’ll need to make your website work anywhere.

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably made the decision to go global with your online content. You’ve also probably assumed that translating your content is the first order of business. You might want to rethink that, however – the latest consensus is that translation should be one of the LAST steps involved in creating a global presence online. A carefully considered process will save a lot of trouble down the road, so it’s recommended that you start with a clear definition of your target market, follow that up with research into the country and culture, and then take on practical matters such as layout, language, and logistics.

Some initial questions you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Is your company ready to support the business generated from your localized website? Can you take orders and provide language-specific customer service in multiple languages? Will your forms and interactive databases display diacritical marks and non-Latin characters correctly?
  • Is all your content even appropriate for foreign viewers? Does your company have “Career Opportunities” in other countries? How about press releases or announcements that change frequently – do you have a plan to keep those items current in every language?
  • Have you decided how navigation will be accomplished? Do you need to reconfigure the structure of your website and page templates accordingly? Navigation is often overlooked when languages are added, frustrating foreign visitors.
  • Do you know how you’ll manage revisions and updates in multiple languages? If your website resides in a content management system, does it have features like the ability to export and import XML or HTML files of the content?
  • Is your site design flexible enough to accept multiple date and time formats, currencies, metric units, etc.? Remember that the format of phone numbers, measurements, dates and currency should be appropriate for the different regions of the world.
  • Is your content clear enough to be readily translated? Advertising copy can be a challenge for translators, and business buzzwords may not have a parallel meaning in other languages.
  • Do you want to create an abbreviated version for specific regions or countries? If you do, you may want to build a parallel matching site in English before sending the content for translation. This will make it much less confusing for translators to view what they’re translating, and to verify the translated content during the final linguistic check.

Make a list, check it twice

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to move forward. It’s now time to review all your existing content and figure out exactly what needs to be translated. The text on a typical website involves multiple components in a variety of file types (HTML, BMP, PDF, ASP, etc.) Take some time to plan out which of these should appear in other languages, and be prepared to provide the content in a format that translators can work with. A list of all the individual source files to be sent for translation is helpful, and it should consider the following components:

  • Page content
  • Graphic images with embedded text like headlines created in unique fonts and placed as images, or illustrations with embedded text
  • Navigation buttons such as “About Us” or “Find A Dealer”
  • PDF documents like user manuals and brochures
  • Dynamic forms
  • Multimedia content

Different content, different approaches

  • HTML. Most content on web pages is composed in HTML, and there are several approaches to translating it. The preferred method is to provide the main body of the content in HTML, XML, or XLIFF files. Translators utilize software programs to make sure that the translated files display correctly. Once translated, the electronic files are ready to be compiled without any cutting or pasting. As an option, you can provide the text in an Excel file or Word table, then copy and paste it into the website after translation, but be aware that this creates more work and introduces the possibility of errors when placing the text. Another alternative is to provide access to an administrative site where the translators work directly in a secure online file.
  • Graphics. Any embedded text that’s part of an image requires separate graphics files. Provide the source files so the English wording can be replaced with the translation.
  • PDFs. If you decide to translate PDFs, the translators will need the native source files in the program that was used to create the document.
  • Dynamic forms. It’s a good idea to provide ASP files or other files that contain the text for these forms.
  • Video. Converting often involves audio and/or video manipulation in addition to translation, so coordinate with your translators and the production house.

Don’t be afraid to get an estimate

Because of all the details we’ve mentioned, asking a translation agency to just look over your website and provide an estimate is like asking a contractor to estimate the cost of your living room remodel without ever setting foot in your house. Website pages are interactive – there’s no beginning or end so it’s difficult to grasp the scope of what needs to be translated. You need to provide the content in a translatable format to get an accurate estimate. If you’ve worked through the items listed here, you should be able to provide electronic files of everything that needs to be translated.

Get the right team for the job

Make sure the translators you choose have the expertise and understanding to do a professional job and you’ll be much happier with the results. Work closely with them to guarantee quality, and be sure to answer questions promptly. There will undoubtedly be some clarifications needed along the way – this means your translators are trying to do a good job! Allow enough time for them to research your products and services, and do the job right – rapid turnaround times often result in shortcuts that can undermine accuracy. A review by personnel in your target market is also highly recommended so that stylistic corrections and adjustments can be made, and be sure to share the reviewer’s changes with the initial translators, as they’ll need to know what’s been changed when they check the final site.

Ready to roll

With the translation in place and review changes made, it’s time to ask the translators to do a final proofing to make sure that everything displays correctly. This will catch any inadvertent errors that may occur while placing text or making corrections. When that’s done, it’s time to launch your newly localized site, and if you’ve taken the time to do things right, you can rest assured that it’s going to reflect well on your brand and bring your company a global presence with plenty of new business from international customers.

At Argos Multilingual, we’re experts at guiding first-time customers through complicated translation and localization jobs. For more information about how we can help you get off on the right foot, get in touch with us.

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