4 Key Ways to Build a Multilingual Website

Strategies to Consider When Taking your Website Global

Multilingual Website

Launching a new business online? Before you go live, make sure it’s available in other languages! English is not the only language of the internet. If your business is going international or you want to be inclusive of a possible audience, using multilingual sites is the way to do it.

Global numbers note that there’s only 20% of internet users that are English native speakers. We’re talking about potentially a large majority of untapped market if you have an English website and nothing else!

Furthermore, with various locales having at least two to three languages now, a multilingual website design is welcomed.

The question remains. How do you serve a page with content in multiple languages? It all comes with the web design.

Are you interested in learning how to build a multilingual site? Here’s how you do it.

1. Translate Your Content Through a Native Speaker

Before you do any web design, here’s the thing. It’s crucial that you have your website translated by native speakers. Trying to detect English and machine translating it is not something you want.


Firstly, most international web visitors use non-English keywords in their searches. Unless your site contains foreign keywords, you stand no chance of being found.

Secondly, languages have nuances that machines cannot detect. Many words have no local equivalents. If you use auto-translators, you’re opening yourself to risk of bad translation.

Bad translations may lead to customer dissatisfaction and miscommunication. Even government websites warn opens in a new window against this possible issue.

To create a site in Spanish, for example, you need to use accented letters. You even need special punctuations to get your point across. Using auto-translate does not provide the same nuance to the user’s experience on your site.

If you’re going to create a multilingual site to boost your web traffic, here’s a tip: Hire a certified language professional. 

If you’re short on time, delay your multilingual website release till you have access to native translators that you can trust.

Another option is to hire a website translation company that has a large network of translators to accommodate your quality, schedule and language requirements. 

2. Pick the Format You Want for Your Multilingual Site

Once you confirm the right content for every page, you want to decide on the design format for the website. How do you serve a page with content in multiple languages? You have two options.

Using Subdomains for Different Languages

Option 1 involves creating subdomains. These are multisite networks. They allow you to provide different experiences within your website.

Let’s say you aim to offer your website in Spanish for a subdomain. If you do it right, your site will show something like es.yourdomain.com when you choose the Spanish language.

This is an excellent choice for small to medium businesses.

It’s inexpensive due to the lack of a need to invest in other domain names. The problem, however, may present itself on the technical side.

If you’re in a specific region and want to direct the language to English or vice-versa, there will be many redirects. These will affect not only your site’s user experience opens in a new window but page load speed as well.

Using ccTLD for Regions and Languages

Option 2 involves the use of different domains. You differentiate them using country code top-level domains or ccTLD.

If we go back to our goal to create a website in Spanish, here’s what happens. You will have a primary site of www.yourdomain.com and a redirect to www.yourdomain.es or www.yourdomain.com.es.

There are a few advantages to this approach. For one, you don’t have to deal with too many redirects and certain SEO issues. This means you don’t need to direct language to English since anyone going to the regional site will be a native speaker.

It also makes monitoring much more manageable for each language. The issue, however, is the cost. You will you be paying for different domains and managing multiple independent sites.

This option is an excellent choice for big national entities and multinational companies.

3. Add a Way to Select Language

Once you have your subdomains or regional sites up and ready, it’s time to set a “select language or region” option. There are, again, different ways to go about this choice.

The common choice is to create a small tab in the header area of your website. A drop-down menu can then contain the different languages you need. The users can click their choice of language and create a redirect.

Another option is to create a full page that contains all the regions available for your website. This can come before or after your content. This method is usual for companies with many websites.

A good tip to remember is to stay away from using country flags to signify languages. Languages can be mutual between different countries.

Using a single flag can alienate potential customers. Even then, some countries will have at least two languages.

4. Confirm Your Site’s Design and Typography

It’s essential to continue bug-testing for possible issues in your design and typography. Many site designs can have erratic behavior in languages with special texts. Test sites using special and double-byte characters like German, Chinese and Japanese.

For example, sites running with languages that go left to right should mirror right to left languages. This includes bi-directional languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu.

Where possible, adjust menus and buttons to accommodate extra formatting that every language may need. Remember the small details as well.

Every country has a different way of showing dates, so follow standards for each. If you’re using security like captcha, you might want to make sure everyone can use it.

Be aware of cultural norms and standards to prevent any user experience (UX) issues. Consult people with culture nuance experience. Prevent listing anything that may seem offensive to your visitors.

Managing a Multilingual Website

How do you serve a page with content in multiple languages? There are a few ways to do it. What matters is that you provide proper nuance and consistent experience to all your audience, local and international.

Whether you’re trying to create a website in Spanish for a new audience or trying to serve a new segment of your demographic, a multilingual website is the answer.

If you’re looking for ways to tap into a bigger audience through translation and localization, consult with GlobalVision International.

We provide high-quality localization and translation services — all with top quality turn-around. 

Websites are very dynamic and their content is changing on a daily basis.

GlobalVision devised a process to deal with frequent translation reuse. It minimizes the overhead involved when updating translated content to match the changing source (English).

We can help you keep all your languages in sync efficiently and effectively.

Talk to us at GlobalVision International and see what we have to offer.

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