Any company that offers products or services internationally is faced with the need to localize its website. This normally raises the same set of questions: To translate or not to translate? What should be translated? What preparations are necessary? What cost savings are possible? And finally— who can be trusted with performing the localization? We answer these questions in detail below.
To Translate or Not to Translate?
Site owners are often tempted to avoid the cost of translating their website, content with the "universal" English version alone. Indeed, statistics show that most Internet users have a sufficient command of English to navigate a website and read a product or service description. However, this does not justify not translating websites into other languages. Even if a website targets an audience with a fairly good command of English, such as IT professionals, there are at least 5 reasons to translate your website.
- Ease of comprehension ensures that visitors will actually read the website. Visitors normally skim through a website, taking note of the highlights alone. Unless they can do so with ease, there is a high probability that they will leave the site in search of other information in their native language.
- Higher promotional effect of the website. A foreign language makes the advertising message less memorable and hinders its direct emotional impact on the audience, while a localized website is both easier to understand and more convincing.
- Technical support made simple. With a translated interface to fall back on, the user and the technical support specialist will interact more easily, saving the company the high cost of hiring multilingual personnel.
- Consideration and respect for foreign-speaking customers. A localized website shows a respectful attitude toward the linguistic and cultural identity of potential customers.
- Stronger corporate image. A multilingual website tells visitors that they are dealing with a company of an international caliber.
What to Translate?
Should the website be translated in its entirety? What can be omitted? To answer these questions, one needs to determine the goals of a localized website and the audience it targets.
Ideally, a website should be localized entirely, but this is not always possible due to financial constraints. When this is the case, only a set of the vital components of the website can be translated. Details...
Things to be translated in the first place
- The interface(or at least the basic navigation tools, menus, and buttons) and the basic texts should be translated to give potential customers an idea of what the company has to offer and to enable them to make informed decisions. This includes descriptions of the core products and services, information about the company and its regional offices and contact information. It is also suggested to translate a few presentations or videos.
- Search optimization of a localized website requires additional preparations. Localization is preceded by drawing up a list of keywords for website search optimization – the so-called semantic core – which form a glossary that is then supplied to the translator. Special attention should be also paid to the translation of meta tags (tags containing service information for search engines: heading text, keywords, page descriptions) and hidden image texts. This text is normally invisible to users but is detected by search engines for purpose of website ranking in search results.
- In some cases, cultural and linguistic adaptation is essential. For example, when translating a website into Middle Eastern languages, the specifics of the right-to-left scripts must be taken into account when formatting text blocks on the interface. It may also be necessary to replace images or the color palette to ensure that the website is perceived properly by people of other cultures and to avoid misunderstandings. Last but not least: dates, units of measure, and similar information should be displayed in the format used in a particular region.
What can be omitted?
- At the initial stage, it is possible to leave secondary multimedia materials, graphs, and various presentations (downloadable in PDF, PPT, and other formats), user manuals and reviews out of the localization process. Simply put, all the material that is not essential to understanding what products and services are being offered to the customer can be omitted.
- It is also possible to skip the translation of news (especially the archive of past news), if interaction with the regional mass media is not deemed necessary.
- If a website offers request forms for product or service advice, it makes sense to translate the forms only into the languages in which the advice is offered.
What Input is Necessary from the Website Owner
At the very least, the customer needs to provide a link to the website along with a list of what needs to be translated. Depending on the budget, availability of technical resources and other considerations, a customer may choose from several scenarios of cooperation with a linguistic service provider. Details...
The simplest yet costliest option
- The website owner grants full access to the site. The service provider’s technical experts then handle the extraction of all files and put together the localized website. Before choosing this option, make sure it does not violate your corporate data security policy.
- When the website owner does not have in=house website administrators or the source files are unavailable, the service provider is provided with a website link. Translation company staff will extract all the content that can be extracted and work with the material at their disposal.
A more labor-intensive but less costly option
- The website owner provides the service provider with website files, graphics, flash animation, and multimedia files. The service provider returns the translated materials in the same format. It is also that the website owner provide glossaries and comments detailing requirements for the translation along with the files.
After all the files have been translated and the website assembled, localized website testing is recommended. If the website owner does not have in-house staff capable of performing localized website testing, the customer should inquire as to whether the translation company offers this service. Details...
The following problems may occur during website translation:
- Layout distortion. Because the source text and the translation occupy a different amount of space, the localized text fragments may overlap, extend outside the boundaries, or be truncated.
- In case of excessive localization (tags that should have remained unchanged have been translated), the website text will include extraneous elements and will differ from the original. To eliminate such errors, large translation companies normally run automated tests that help detect such errors.
- Wrong tag sequence. The word order or even sentence order may change in the translated text. In this case some elements (such as links and images embedded in the text) should be moved to a different location inside the text to preserve the logic and meaning of the original. For example, on seeing the sentence as "Press the button", the translator will translate it into the respective language as "Press the < tag > button", if they are unable to decipher the meaning of the symbol. A test can detect a word and character order that is uncharacteristic to the target language and move the graphic symbol to the appropriate location in the sentence.
- Broken links. For example, links to untranslated materials are not published in the localized website.
What Cost Savings are Possible?
Some may say that savings are possible at the expense of quality, but as no self-respecting company will consider this seriously, we are ruling this option out. Low-quality translation of a website can undermine customer trust and damage business reputation. However, there are less risky ways to reduce localization costs. Details...
Text volume. As noted previously, it is possible to omit texts of secondary importance or abridge the source texts by removing superfluous information before submitting them for translation.
Translation memory. If the translation company uses computer-assisted translation tools, such as SDL Trados, updated files do not have to be translated from scratch after a new product description is added or an existing one modified. Previously translated text will be inserted from translation memory automatically, and the translator will translate the new text only. A simple rule is at work here: the translator translates new information, and the customer pays for the volume translated. The use of translation memory reduces costs and improves style and terminology consistency throughout the site.
Glossaries help reduce the amount of time spent on text reviewing and editing, especially if other website materials are going to be translated in the future. Glossaries also ensure translation consistency. A translation company of good standing will normally be the first to suggest that the customer draw up a glossary before commencing translation.
Providing files in their source format. This mainly applies to graphics, multimedia, and similar materials. If the translation company can edit source formats, its translators will simply replace the original text with the translation, saving clients the trouble of hiring the expensive services of a web designer. Consider another example: it is sometimes possible to extract the original audio stream from the video and insert the translated audio stream instead of using subtitles. Before submitting a website for localization, it makes sense to check your files for source materials or request them from the website developer.
Who Can be Trusted with Performing Localization?
So you have decided to localize your website. Who can be trusted with this important task? Based on our experience, we have singled out a number of criteria to be considered in choosing a service provider. Details...
- First, the translator or company to be tasked with localizing your website should specialize in a field associated with products or services offered on the website. This will save the customer the embarrassment of inaccurate translations or the use of irrelevant terminology.
- You may not be equipped to extract text for translation from html, xml and other pages to be localized, and then reassemble the website. If this is the case, you should inquire which file formats the translation company has experience with and whether the service provider has specialists capable of resolving any technical issues that may arise. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting a fair amount of time on technical support for the translation company.
- Be sure to ask the potential service providers if they use translation memory. Translation memory enables considerable savings on the localization of future website updates.
- It is advised to request a test translation and evaluate its quality. Translation companies normally complete 300- to 800-word tests free of charge.
- Treating the customer with care. Successful service providers stand out due to their informal and personalized approach to every customer, a sincere interest in resolving the customer's issues and the ability to satisfy all customer requests.