Many people overlook making their websites multilingual friendly thinking that the majority of their traffic or visitors understand the English language. One thing to note is that nearly two billion people worldwide now have access to the internet, which is almost one third of the world’s population.
Therefore, the expansion of your website worldwide depends greatly upon multilingual support.
Implementing multilingual support may sound as easy as just translating your pages, however in most cases, it is not. Most designers always design according to left to right languages. Therefore, right to left languages may not appear properly within the design. We discuss tips to that help make your website and design multilingual friendly.
By using Unicode you are making your website multilingual ready for the future as it supports over a hundred thousand characters of different types. It is also supported by most, if not, all web browsers and platforms. Therefore, switching to Unicode will only benefit you in the long run.
When designing for multilingual support, your design needs to be built around the languages in the sense that it should be easily compatible with left to right and right to left languages. The content being translated to different languages usually is not the problem; however, the navigations, sidebars, and the likes are usually the tidbits designers may stumble upon with multilingual support problems.
One key to keeping your navigation flexible for multilingual support is to make it rather simple and very flexible in the sense that if the language is right to left each navigation bit will cope to it and expand properly with a good size and readable font. As indeed, the font size is a major key aspect for many languages especially languages such as Hebrew or Arabic.
Cut Back on Images Containing Text
I have seen many multilingual supported websites with a whole set of images or illustrations containing text. When you flip between languages those images still remain in English, this is a sign of poor multilingual support and poor design and coordination skills.
The reason I say this is multilingual support is all about having every single letter and word within that website to be translated to the selected language, and not translated in bits and pieces. Therefore, I emphasize a lot on reducing the use of images containing text as it sometimes becomes redundant and a difficult task to get your illustrations or images with text translated while keeping the same meaning and look and feel to it.
Colors may seem harmless, adding flavor to any design you put together. However, when adding multilingual support, you need to assure the colors you pick for your website also reflect what you do without having a negative affect within certain cultures. For example, the color green has different meanings across different countries and cultures. For us, the color green might signify nature and the utilization of natural resources while for many middle-eastern countries it may signify religion.
With that all said, when choosing a color scheme for your website, assure it is broad and generally fits the topic of what you do without delivering any negative message across multiple cultures you may support.
Before translating your website into multiple languages, performing some research on each of the languages may help you succeed in reaching the targeted audience. Sometimes (in fact, most of the times) translating word for word may not be the best option for a proper flow in sentences and content. Does your targeted audience enjoy a casual flow, a proper language flow, or something in between? Getting answers for these questions help you translate your website better in the sense that the targeted audience will enjoy reading and browsing your site longer.
Let’s look at the English language as a good example of language flow that we tend to stick to when reading articles and the likes from the internet. When reading a casual article we tend to love the tone and vocabulary that we use in our daily life, and if we see anything different, we tend to skim through the article because the topic may have interested us but the use of the language was not favorable. For example, if this article were written using a sophisticated tone and vocabulary, many would not understand the article fully and would therefore not care to continue reading it.
With that all said, putting some time into research before translating your website is a matter of success or fail for that targeted audience. A good method to adapt to when implementing new languages is to have someone who primarily speaks that language to browse about your website reading the content to provide feedback on the flow and tone. This greatly helps to improve your website’s multilingual support.
Easy Switch Back System
One of the biggest mistakes made with multilingual support is finding the language select menu.
Some websites hide the language select menu within the account settings or several layers within the website. The problem with this is if a user accidentally changes the language to something they do not understand, it becomes very difficult for them to navigate their way through the website to get to the language select menu. Therefore, instead of hiding the language select menu, it is in your best interest to make it available across the entire website being in the header, footer, or in similar places throughout the website.
This enables your viewers or users to be able to easily flip back to the language they favor without the hassle of guessing where it may be located. Adding flags to the language select menu also help in addition with the text, as the words for languages change between languages, it may not be understandable or clear for that trying to switch back and forth.
Therefore, also adding a graphical image of the flag helps your viewers or users select the exact language they were looking for.
The End of Our Journey
To conclude, providing multilingual support is not a walk in the park! However, it’s definitely worth your time and efforts.
Language and communication are two critical keys to the way our lives are conducted and work in coordination together, and indeed the reason why we are surrounded by neighbors and great icons worldwide. The same applies with websites and the internet, without multilingual support, we really would not have many iconic online services and websites that every internet user may favor over others.