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How to Make Sure Your Multilingual Websites Offer the Best User Experience Possible

How to make sure your multilingual websites offer the best user experience

In a globalized world, you don’t want to speak in just one language to your customers. So making your website multilingual seems like a no-brainer. But before you spend money on translating and localizing your content, you should take a step back and consider a few best practices that can save you headaches down the road. Making the user experience for your multilingual website as smooth and natural as possible will mean the difference between having your visitors bounce or retaining them and eventually converting them into customers.

Here are six best practices you should keep in mind:

  1. Selecting the Language

Imagine a case where you, as a native English speaker, open a website and it shows up in Norwegian. While there is an option to switch to English by toggling a language bar, chances are you don’t bother looking for it and just move on. To avoid this kind of bad user experience, you have different options. One is to create a global landing page that allows the user to select their preferred language first. It is also technically possible to detect the language of your user’s browser and then serve up the website in that language right away. When the user comes back next time, their language preference is stored in a cookie or HTML local storage and is readily available. There are, however, downsides to these methods. In some countries, you have to notify your user if you are storing data. And depending on how you handle the backend, there could be negative implications on your search engine optimization (SEO) if the language you are offering is not obvious for the search engine. Google talks about this here.

  1. No Flags, Please

So you decided to create a global landing page that allows your users to select their preferred language. A common mistake now is to use flags as a graphic element. While it may look nice, it can also be confusing. How do you deal with countries with multiple official languages like Canada, for example? And what about countries that share a language? You’ll probably find out that the best way is to write out the name of the language and stay clear of flags. If you do so, it’s important that you use the names of the languages in their own language. So the option for German should not read “German” but “Deutsch”.   

  1. Only Use Appropriate Fonts

Not all fonts play nice in all languages. And if you don’t choose appropriately, you may end up with meaningless characters that not only disturb the reading flow but make your whole website appear unprofessional. You can avoid this problem by using fonts with the proper UTF-8 declaration. It is the recommended default encoding for HTML websites and works for almost 90% of all webpages worldwide. Fonts like Noto Sans, developed over several years by Google, may fit your bill.

  1. Big Is Beautiful

Another aspect to consider when it comes to fonts on multilingual websites: There is not one size that fits all. Chinese, for example, has characters that have more detail than those of the English language and require a taller size to be legible. At the same time, Chinese often requires fewer characters than English to convey the same message. As a result, the text might run shorter and present an issue that needs to be dealt within the layout. As a best practice, you should specify readable font sizes for each of your localized websites that correspond well with how a language is displayed in that font.

  1. Beware of Your Images

The use of images can trip up a multilingual website in different ways. One common problem is embedded text which cannot be automatically translated like the rest of the content. This often gets overlooked and results with text not being translated. The solution is to either avoid using text in images altogether or to use SVG files for your graphics, which are editable, easily localized, and indexable for SEO. Another issue you need to keep an eye on is that not every image is appropriate in every cultural context. What may seem innocent or stylish to one group of people may be offensive to others. You need to play it safe and should check with in-country experts to avoid costly blunders.

  1. Consider the Speed

While ubiquitous fast internet access may feel like a given in the tech centers of the world, studies show that internet speeds around the globe still vary greatly. This has important implications for your multilingual website. You don’t want to get caught with an intricate, picture-heavy design in a region where download speeds are painfully slow. So make sure you know what your users have to deal with in any given region and adjust or simplify your design accordingly.    

These are just a few tips of what you can do to make your next multilingual website translation and localization project successful. There are many more aspects to consider, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our Venga specialists for any questions. Or request a free quote today.

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