In a world where personalisation of the user journey is paramount, nothing speaks more powerfully to your customers than talking to them in their own language. And with roughly 6,500 languages being spoken in the world today, it’s unlikely that the world – and the web – will ever become a monolinguistic platform communicating purely in ‘Business English’ or any other single language.
Wales understands this more than most, of course. As a bilingual nation, this subject is particularly relevant to businesses in Wales; as well as a crucial consideration for public sector organisations who are required by law to make all information available in Welsh and English, with the Welsh Government announcing only last week that speaking a basic level of Welsh will be a prerequisite for new WG jobs.
Catering to your audience’s language preferences will build customer loyalty – and help you win new markets
But this is bigger than the two national languages of Wales. As more and more people turn to digital channels to find information and access services, it’s important that you make these processes as intuitive and seamless as possible. This includes catering to your audience’s language preferences – reducing cognitive effort to create an instant connection and foster long-term trust and loyalty.
And in a world that’s ever more connected, you may also be considering expanding your reach into new geographical markets with new language-specific versions of your site – where it’s vital that your portal takes into account additional logistic and cultural considerations (something we’ve written about here, with specific reference to ecommerce sites).
There are, of course, complexities attached to delivering information and a positive user experience in more than one language. But these are not necessarily prohibitive – and the benefits of making your organisation open and accessible to more stakeholders will probably far outweigh the initial investment. So what are ‘the rules’ you need to follow to reach more people and penetrate different audiences?
The Dos & Don’ts of Delivering Bilingual & Multilingual Content
There are some key ‘Dos & Don’ts’ when you’re considering setting-up a bilingual or multilingual website (which we’ve covered further in this blog post), and a number of golden rules…
Always Put Your Content First.
When setting up a bilingual or multilingual site, content should of course come first. Human-translated content is the gold standard here, and recommended for maximum accuracy, control and context – but it does come at a cost. An alternative to human translation is machine translation, which can help increase efficiency and enable you to extend your reach even further without unwieldy overheads – but you do risk issues such as brands and place names being translated (although configuration options do exist to mark this content as ‘not for translation’). If you’re using machine translation, it’s wise to include a human element in your process to review any translated content – safeguarding quality while still allowing you to move at speed
Design an Experience for The Eyes of the World.
However your content is translated, you’ll also need to think about how the design of your website is impacted by what language it is viewed in. For example, buttons and menus might break when longer content is added – and looking beyond English/Welsh bilingual sites, languages that read right-to-left can display very differently to those that read left-to-right, as we have learned in our increasingly global work for clients – https://www.boxuk.com/insight/building-your-global-ecommerce-proposition/. This can be mitigated by involving User Experience & Design professionals at the outset of your project, as we do at Box UK, so that page templates and components are defined as the content is being crafted, and can be tested with real-world examples.
Build on the ‘Right’ Infrastructure.
Having a bilingual or multilingual website also makes it easier for audiences to find you online – if your infrastructure is set up correctly. It’s important therefore to think carefully about your technical decisions – for example, whether all languages are stored in your site (rather than translated on the fly), and whether metadata can be added – to ensure you rank for relevant search terms, and maintain relevance once they land on your site by displaying content that aligns with their previous expectations.
On-site search is another valuable tool to aid users in achieving their goals, whether this is finding a specific piece of information (as on many public sector sites), or aiding browsing and increasing discoverability. User testing can be valuable here to understand how end-users really engage with search and uncover additional functionality to support them in finding what they’re looking for – for example by accommodating natural language search as well as predictive spelling and synonyms.
The Benefits of an End-to-End Approach.
Creating a successful multilingual website requires you to go beyond content translation and think carefully about what your users need and expect, as well as the goals you want to achieve as an organisation. Get it right though and you’ll reap the rewards of increased engagement and satisfaction – and open your products and services up to a much wider audience.
At Box UK we take an end-to-end approach to designing, delivering and managing multilingual sites, and have worked with a wide range of clients from public sector bodies to international retailers, giving us a wealth of cross-sector experience. To learn more take a look at some of our recent work (https://www.boxuk.com/our-work/), and get in touch by emailing [email protected] or calling 02920 228822.