Your multilingual website tells more about your business than you may think
It’s hard to expand to new markets with a monolingual website only. Most companies are aware that website translation and localisation is a must to grow internationally, but there’s one thing that is often ignored. The scope and method of your website localisation tells more about your business than the actual content. Below you can find out how your multilingual website may be perceived by your visitors.
1. Flags representing languages
Such a simple and handy solution. So simple that many businesses blindly choose this option and end up confusing their visitors. There might be no issues if you display a Polish or Finnish flag to indicate a link to the Polish or Finnish website version. But what about Spanish, English, German or Arabic? These languages are spoken in a number of countries and regions. Using a British flag for the English language or German for the German content will create an impression that you don’t really know your potential customers. Similarly, many countries have more than one official language, and using one single flag as a language choice may offend your visitors. Flags displayed on the website might look more attractive than a simple language code or language name, but this approach suggests that your website and your business isn’t ready for the international users who can’t be classified by national symbols only.
2. Only two available languages
Websites developed in languages other than English are often localised into English first. It may attract new visitors from multiple countries, but at the same time it may limit your opportunities. If the content is available in English to make it accessible and understandable for everyone, it’s actually targeted at no one. Choosing only the English language for your localisation may suggest that your business strives for global recognition, but doesn’t really focus on a particular market. Opting for one specific language of your desired market usually brings more benefits than localising your website into English only. But to do so, you’ll need to carry out a thorough market research to find out which regions and languages are beneficial for your business.
3. Different content for each language
If each language version is adjusted to the target users from different countries, provides local content and localised layout, your website will come across as more attractive. On top of that, your business may be perceived as more trustworthy. This strategy means that you are aware of the needs of each user group and treat your potential customers individually, rather than putting them all into one “international” category. It also shows that every single market is important to your business and you know how to approach customers from different cultures.
4. Limited information on the international version
Localised website versions sometimes provide less information than the original content. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you do it on purpose, for example, if you’ve researched your target market and know that your visitors need less content to get the full image of your products or services. But if your website features only “About us” or “Contact” page in a foreign language, the first impression of your visitors will be far from positive. Your visitors may assume that your business is not ready for the global expansion or that you’re still not convinced that website localisation goes together with great business benefits. Or you’re testing a new market and trying to find out if providing partial or missing information is a good marketing strategy.
Do you think your website fits in any of these categories? Are you ready to create a better online image for your business?
Dorota Pawlak is a localization consultant for digital brands. She enjoys helping businesses enter new markets and is passionate about cultures, languages, and technology.
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