“The minimum website experience is translated content. Period. You can’t risk the appearance of irrelevance or worse, arrogance, by sending global visitors to an English-only website.” So said Monica Arroyave, an accomplished multi-lingual global marketer at Gilbarco Veeder-Root, who has plenty of international experience. She added, “And if your products are designed or offered specifically by region, your website must reflect that. Customers must see what is applicable to them and their environment.”
Klaus Sejr Madsen, international marketing director for Bruel & Kjaer, HBK, agrees. “We must market globally, and we recognize language adaptations are the basic point of entry. We have one website translated into the 10 key languages we deem as essential to our business. We also ensure downloadable documents are offered in a country-specific manner.”
However, the ‘minimum’ extends beyond simply swapping out English copy for another language. Vijith Basheer, global marketing leader at Flowserve, clarified. “Don’t forget about website performance. Your websites need to load quickly and deliver an optimal experience wherever they are being accessed.”
For example, the number of letters in a given word varies from language to language. A word in Portuguese may have twice as many letters as the same word in English, for instance. Consequently, pixel widths and design complications can arise. Many content management systems (CMS) and web developers alike fail to take this into account. Headlines run into extra lines or become misaligned, images are shifted into odd places, unintended page breaks occur, etc. This can end up expressing bias and favoritism to your English-speaking visitors, even if unintentionally.
Respect each of your pages as you would each of your customers. You need to translate your templates and designs in addition to translating your copy. This extra attention paid to detail will go a long way.