What if I told you that there are only five steps to translating a website? The next logical question would be, “How difficult are the five steps?” Are they easy like in your grade school essay: “The Five Steps to Making a Sandwich?” Sadly, the steps to localizing a website are not exactly quick and easy, but understanding the five steps of website localization projects will help ensure a smooth and successful creation of a localized website.
Web marketing experts are saying that website translation or localization is one of the top ways to improve your online visibility in 2020, so getting your website translated could put you on your way to expanding your business by winning more customers in foreign markets.
The 5 Steps of Website Localization
- Planning and Discovery
- Laying the Groundwork—the Logistics of Web Localization
- Translating the Text
- LQA and Localization Testing
- Go Live, Maintenance, and Marketing
1. Planning and Discovery
In the Art of War, Sunzi says, “The general that wins the battle makes many calculations in a temple beforehand. The general who cannot win the battle makes few calculations in the temple. Much calculation brings victory. Little calculation brings defeat. Imagine the result of not calculating!”
That’s a good reminder that any project without sufficient planning is bound to fail.
For the website localization process workflow, this planning stage is the most critical.
It’s in the planning and discovery stage of a website localization project that you need to decide whether you should go ahead and translate in the first place, and if you do, what languages you should translate into.
In this stage you need to research the market, research the local laws, and understand your company’s capabilities. Here are some questions you should ask:
- Does my company have the resources to serve customers in other regions?
- Is my product or service legal in the target region?
- Is there a demand for my product or service among the speakers of the target language?
- Will it be profitable to sell to the target market?
- How much of my website should I localize? Does it all need high quality translation? Or is it possible to machine translate less important text?
- What languages should I translate into?
- Do I have the necessary time and resources to do all the steps of website localization?
As you ponder what languages you should translate into, you can examine your English website’s analytics and ask yourself:
- What regions are my visitors coming from?
- What languages are their browsers set to?
- What pages do they visit?
- What is their purpose for coming to my website?
- What languages or regions drive the most revenue?
Analyzing the traffic and conversions on your own website might be the best market research you can do.
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What’s Your Localization Project Budget?
At this point you also need to evaluate your budget for the project. How much are you willing to spend?
You may want to translate everything into several languages for your international customers, but you lack the budget to do so.
Further, it would be preferable to have a human translator and a native speaker of the target language translate the website content. After all, Internet users want to read high-quality texts in their own language. But the reality of budgets may mean that you may have to use a hybrid human/machine approach.
That means, for example, you may decide to use professional translators translating into their native language for key marketing pages. Then you may choose machine translation with human-post editing for your vast online help documentation.
Again, it would be nice to offer your potential customers all the content from your existing website in all the languages at top quality, but budget reality means you need to start somewhere and scale up from there. Your website translation service provider can help you figure out ways to save money without alienating your target customers in other countries.
In the translation stage we’ll share some strategies you can use to save money with localization.
Or, on the other hand, you may decide to localize into more languages than originally planned. Of the five steps of website localization, this planning stage is the most vital for your success.
2. Laying the Groundwork—the Logistics of Web Localization
Now that you are confident that the languages you have chosen are worth investing in and that you will be able to serve those markets, now is the time to think through the technical aspects of localizing your website.
For this stage it is incredibly important to have resources on the project, such as a website localization services company like IVANNOVATION, who understand the localization process workflow and can guide you through it. That’s because out of all the steps of website localization, this stage is the most technical.
We’ve published a lengthy article about this step of the process here: How To Build A Multilingual Website? Here Are The First Steps [Complete Guide]. The article is full of technical details and localization best practices to keep in mind.
There’s also an old but classic article that covers many of the technical aspects of localization here. But for now let’s briefly overview a few of the major considerations of this stage.
You need to ask:
- Is my website CMS able to handle other languages?
- How will I host my foreign language website?
- How will I structure the URL?
- How will visitors be served the correct languages? Will it be automatic? Or will they choose manually?
- Are the images on my website appropriate for the target region?
- Will my website still look good if the sentences are longer?
- How will I accept payments?
- What is the format of my content? HTML? DITA? XML? JSON?
- Do the dates, numbers, units of measure, currencies, and names display properly?
This is only a short list of things you must consider at this stage. Due to the complexities of localization, it’s best to have an experienced website localization service partner to walk with you each step of the way.
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3. Translating the Text
At this stage you actually begin translating the content of your website.
This website translation stage includes four steps:
- Assemble a team
- Set up language resources
- Perform quality assurance checks
Assemble a Team
First, you must assemble a team of personnel who will work on the project. This includes at least one project manager but possibly also web developers, graphic designers, and internal language experts. At the same time, your localization partner will also be assembling a team that will include members such as translators, editors, developers, and designers. The localization partner will also choose a project manager that will interface primarily with your project manager.
Set up Language Resources
Next, you and your localization partner will begin setting up your language resources such as glossaries, translation memories, term bases, and style guides. These resources help improve the speed and accuracy of translation since they clarify the meanings of special words and phrases used in your company, give rules about language usage, and so on.
Further, translators will have fewer questions to ask and fewer answers to wait for since the resources will all be immediately available for them to consult.
How to Use Technology to Save Money With Localization
Too many companies make the mistake of saving money by hiring the CEO’s nephew who flunked out of Spanish in high school or by using Google Translate’s raw output. The end result is savings up front and huge costs later with dissatisfied customers, lost opportunities, and the laborious task of updating translations manually.
The REAL way to save money is by discussing with your language service provider how to use technology to streamline the process. Here are a few ways technology can help you save.
Make sure your translation service provider is using a CAT (computer aided translation) tool and saving translating strings into a translation memory (TM). Every sentence, every button text, every menu entry is saved into a translation memory file with the English language text, the translation in a different language, the translator’s name, and the date and time of translation. (The file is called a TMX file if you’re interested.)
Then in the future, anytime you translate similar content or anytime you update content and have the updated content translated, all unchanged strings or sentences will be translated for free with the information from the translation memory. Any strings that are only slightly changed can be translated for a discount.
Even if you don’t have translation memories for historical translations, your translation service provider may be able to create them. One time IVANNOVATION’s localization engineers aligned historical translations with their source texts and created a translation memory, thereby saving its customer $30,000 on a single translation project.
Another way to save money is by using machine translation (MT). It’s not recommended to use raw machine translation for your website in most circumstances, but it is possible to translate by machine and then have a human edit the translated content to fix errors and make it sound natural.
This human-machine hybrid model can save money, increase speed, and retain a high quality.
The key is that you need to discuss with your localization service partner how to use technology and translation resources to optimize your localization efforts and save you money.
After setting up the resources for the localization project, the website localization company imports the text into their translation tools, and linguists begin translating. As translation continues, you and your localization partner will continually update and expand the language resources.
But don’t think that this will be a simple word-for-word translation. If you really want your website to be found by speakers of other languages when they search for your keywords, you need to know what keywords they use when searching Google, Baidu, Yandex, etc. That means your translation must be based on solid international keyword research in order to really get a foothold in foreign search engine results pages (SERPs).
Perform Quality Assurance Checks
Finally, as translated files start being submitted, the translation provider will perform manual and automated quality assurance checks.
Manual QA checks are performed by a second linguist who checks the original text and the translated text to ensure that the foreign language website text is grammatical and accurate. Automated QA checks are performed by translation software tools; they search for misspellings, translation inconsistencies, mismatching numbers, and other other issues.
Don’t omit QA unless you want embarrassing mistakes on your website!
4. LQA and Localization Testing
Like all the other steps of website localization, this step is critical, but unfortunately, it is all too often neglected. This step—which includes language quality assurance (LQA) and localization testing—polishes the result to give your users a perfect experience.
LQA is the process of inspecting localized websites or software for language that seems inappropriate for the context. Typically linguists translate in translation tools and not in the context of the website. As a result sometimes they may used a translation for a word that is technically correct, but when they see it on the localized web page, they realize that it’s not appropriate for that context.
For example, in this screenshot from Twitter, you can see that the user posted a dialog box. They were complaining because the dialog box basically says in Russian, “Do you want to cancel?” And the two buttons say, “Cancel” and “Cancel.” This was not exactly a translation error—the translations were correct!
But when the user saw it in this context, the user realized that it should say, “Are you sure you want to undo?” And the two options should have been, “Undo” and “Cancel.”
Localization testing is the process of using the localized site and checking for bugs and technical issues that may have been introduced during the translation process. Linguists or test subjects from the target market can click through and test all of the functions of the site to make sure that the links are still valid, that the forms still work, and that all other functions of the site are in good order.
Users will also check for anything that doesn’t look good on the localized website. This may include button text that’s too long or headlines that won’t fit on the page anymore. Further, users might discover that images might need to be changed since they don’t fit with the new language or since they have important words in them that need to be translated.
5. Go Live, Maintenance, and Marketing
At last your website has been translated and tested. You confidently hit the publish button. Congratulations!
Now you have a website in multiple languages! Properly localized websites have the potential to draw in customers from around the world!
Now what next?
Now that the localized version of your website is live, you need to drive traffic to it with multilingual SEO.
An important first step is to monitor the traffic coming to it.
- How do the foreign language users interact with your website?
- What are the most popular pages?
- What search keywords do customers use to find your site?
- Does it have the expected conversion rate? Why or why not?
The way the local audiences use your website in local languages will be important feedback to you as you promote it with international SEO and marketing.
If the budget is available, you may choose to work with a local marketing company to build local links and optimize your articles for the keywords that are driving the most traffic.
Further, based on the research that you have done on visitor behavior on your localized site, you can begin developing unique content for that localized site. This unique content can speak particularly to the demands of that market.
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These are the five steps of website localization. They require time and effort. Unfortunately, they aren’t as easy as “the five steps for an amazing BLT.” But if you carefully consider each stage and give it the attention it deserves, your multilingual content has a strong chance for success.
Want to talk with us about possibly doing a website translation or localization? Contact us here and let’s talk!
Read Other Posts on Website Localization
- How to Build a Multilingual Website? Here Are the First Steps [Complete Guide]
- Can This Translation Mistake Torpedo Your Search Engine Rankings?
- Can You Boost Your SEO With Website Localization?
Darren Jansen, business development and content manager for IVANNOVATION, has a lifetime love for tech and languages. At IVANNOVATION he helps software developers get professional localization for their apps, software, and websites. On his time away from the office, he can be found hiking the Carolina wilderness or reading Chinese literature.