The ultimate guide to making an international website
How to make your website globally accessible
The internet is a pretty big place, and there are more users outside of your country than there are in your country. So if you're not catering to a global audience, you're missing out on a tonne of website traffic.
In this guide we'll show you how to place your website onto the world stage.
Translating your content
The first (and most obvious) task is to translate your content into many different languages. But you can't just stop there, you need to also take into account the cultural nuances of each region.
Using Google translate is not a solution. It is far from accurate and in some cases it completely changes the meaning of your message.
If you want to demonstrate to your international audience that you care enough about them to invest in their culture, you should work with a professional native writer for each region or, at the very least, a professional translator.
You may have come across a website that was originally written in a different language, but computationally translated into english. Such translation solutions produce clunky content that's exceedingly difficult to digest. Visitors always bounce off such websites, no matter how important the content might be to them
Foreign speakers can identify when content has been translated and when it has been specifically crafted for them. The latter effort demonstrates a deeper attention to detail which will be noted and incentify conversions.
The other major benefit of working with prolific content writers is that they can SEO optimize your foreign content. SEO optimization is a strategy that must be actively applied when crafting content so you need a human behind the wheel and not a translator bot.
Insert a language switcher
As the name suggests, a language switcher gives users the option of changing a website's language. Here are a couple of examples of language switchers. They give international visitors a fantastic user experience
Another reason why language switches are great is that they prevent you from having to design a new website from scratch for each different language. So all of your visitors will have the same user experience when navigating your site, which will solidify your brand identity.
Should you use flags or language names?
This is a common fork in the road for web designers. To nullify the chances of misinterpretation, language names are best to use. The reason being that flag icons usually represent the location of the visitor rather than their language.
Integrating a language switcher into your website
There are different solutions available that will help you manage your different content translation as well as integrate them into your site.
If you aren't tech savvy you can hire a web developer to help integrate these solutions for you, or even develop a custom solution to fit your unique requirements
Weglot is a great solution for wordpress website, the software even has an inbuilt CMS that allows you to collaborate with different translators remotely.
Here are some other translation project management solutions that will help you manage your translation projects at scale.
Accommodate for language with variations
Not all languages occupy the same real estate on a page. European languages such as German and Italian have a higher word density than asian dialects.
Take a look at the differing space requirements of each language for the same translated message:
If your website design does not effectively accommodate for these size variations, your translated text may overflow into your other web elements or not be aligned with your other design elements. Both instances will give users a poor experience which will negatively impact your Google rank.
Some languages convection flow from right to left which too which could completely disrupt a web design predicate on a left to right convention.
This is why it's a good idea to work alongside a web developer to ensure your UX design is optimised of all regions.
If you feel comfortable with CSS, language translation solutions usually give you the option of overriding the design script whenever you upload a right to left convertino language.
Be culturally sensitive with your colors
Color has different definitions depending on each reason.
Here is an example of how the definition of orange varies from region to region:
In Western culture, orange represents warmth, autumn and new beginnings.
In Hinduism, orange is considered a sacred color.
In the Netherlands, orange is a royal color because it is the color of the Dutch royal family.
In Columbia, orange represents sexuality and fertility.
So you can see how a seemingly innocent selection of color could have a significantly big impact on an international audience.
If you don't want to tweak your website design for every region, you should at the very least design your website to be color agnostic.
You can read more about the international definitions of color in this post.
Insert a hreflang tag attribute
This step is very important. In order for your international content to rank in Google in different languages searchers, you need to let Google know which language each page is written in.
This is done by adding a line of code to each page of your website. You can place in the on-page markup, the HTTP header of the sitemap, just make sure you only choose one of the locations.
Here is an example of a Hreflang tag for a spanish content:
link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com" hreflang="es-es
You can learn more about Hreflang tags in this post from Moz.
If you are not producing content in multiple languages you are missing out on a tonne of free traffic. Follow the guidelines in this post to open the flood gates to a wonderful international audience.