5 Critical Steps to Success in Website Translation

By Russell Lundstrom, President of GlobalSiteSecrets.com and EO Colorado member

Success in foreign markets depends on many factors. Your website translation is one of the most crucial of these factors. The following 5 steps are crucial to your success. Repeatedly, companies have sought success overseas and jumped at the opportunity without taking the small amount of time it requires to plan out the strategy and tactics to fully maximize the opportunity and minimize the risk. Each of the following 5 steps are fairly simple to execute and, unfortunately, very simple to overlook.

Critical Step 1 – What is the current state of website translation and localization? It is a double edged sword, long with opportunities, but carries sharp risks all around.

It has never been easier to create, launch, and market a website than right now. WordPress, Drupal, and a whole host of other content management systems (CMS) are available.  The very advantages these technologies allow companies, creates some major challenges with translation and localization.

Roughly 75% of Internet users speak a language other than English as their primary language.

Web technologies are growing at a rapid pace.  Tremendous opportunities exist from the emergence of html5 and the mobile web. Global mobile searches grew by almost 250% last year. In a rather large nutshell, the web has never been more complex, larger, and yet richer with opportunity.

Critical Step 2 – The best place to begin is your website and the server it lives on. The first major reason to clean up your server is to have a defined scope for your project. For example, we once worked on a site that had more than 3500 files in the root directory of the server. The original scope, prior to cleanup, was well over 100k words for translation and thousands of graphics. After cleanup and inventory, the actual live site contained only around 35k words: more than 65% savings from originally estimated. For any marketing manager charged with a site translation project, this can make or break your budget (How Much Does It Cost To Translate My Website?).

Secondly, review of your file naming conventions. Make sure you are using descriptive and unique file names. If you have multiple files with the same name, for example index.html within multiple directories, we

Better organization will greatly reward you later on in the process. Think of it this way, for each language, your file count will at least double. The possibility for error increases exponentially.

Critical Step 3 – The next step is to review your site design for localization issues.  Immediately you think about your color schemes and imagery may be offensive to some cultures. While there might be an element of truth to this, most of the time it isn’t usually a concern.

What is of concern is the design and layout of your site; the graphics, the dynamic content, and the navigation. Most translations can result in a + or – growth of 30% in the character count. If your content expands by 30%, as in the case of Spanish, will your design and layout support this growth?

Each graphic that contains translatable text will have to be translated and re-created. You can dramatically reduce the cost of a site translation project by replacing or removing the graphics that contain text.

Critical Step 4 – One of the biggest challenges in today’s world is data management. Content is king on the web and having a good multilingual management system is crucial. The engines that drive all the content are databases of one type or another.

Several issues need to be considered when translating dynamic content.  First, and probably the most important is the management of multiple language versions of your databases. Are you going run duplicate tables for each target language? , each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Last, you need to be aware of the growth factor and different character sets. Again, Spanish can grow as much as 30%. Can your database handle this increase in content? What about the area on your site design where the content is displayed? Is that growth going to be cut off by your design?

Critical Step 5 – Success depends on meeting your goals, adjusting where necessary, and reaching further the next time. Create a plan for growth with defined success milestones. Translation can provide your business with some of the greatest leverage available, but it can also spiral out of control without the proper planning and tools.

Your initial investment in your site can large but with great tools like translation memory, the investment pays over and over and the ROI is tremendous. It isn’t unusual to see ROI in the 50-75% range on a given website translation project.

Succeeding in international business is extremely rewarding as long as you have the proper processes to guide you. Search around or ask your language provider to help you write your localization strategy. Taking the time to think this through will give you the foundation necessary to make the most of your international efforts.


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