Images, banners, video animations and interactive content instantly tell prospective customers what your brand is all about, well before they read a single word of text. They’re some of the most impactful media a website can use.

But these formats are often left untranslated by most translation vendors. Most traditional translation services lack the unique expertise in technologies, languages and graphic design to localize multimedia files, their customers often believe they can’t translate them at all. That’s not true.

The end result is a subpar UX, and here’s why:

  • Let’s say your localized website’s homepage text is fully translated…
  • But the promotional messaging integrated into the page’s images remains in the origin language
  • This creates confusion for users, and instantly removes them from an immersive in-language user experience
  • Depending on how long the untranslated images have been visible on the multilingual site, they may reflect outdated prices or other obsolete messaging
  • So, between the mismatched languages and stale announcements, users may conclude that you don’t value them…
  • And as a result, engagement and brand reputation suffers, and users often bounce

The industry-wide belief that multimedia is practically impossible to translate is misguided. It’s entirely possible to cost-effectively localize this content at scale, with superior speed-to-market. Following these best practices can help.

Best Practices for Website Image Translation

Many companies integrate display headlines or other promotional copy into their website images. Detecting and compiling these images for translation is very hard, if not impossible, for most website translation services. This is because the task requires mature technologies that can:

  • Accurately analyze all content on a website
  • Automatically identify translatable images
  • Transmit them to linguists and graphic designers for localization

Most vendors don’t have that kind of technology and lack the graphic design expertise to localize these visually complex “flattened” .jpg and .png images.

Great website translation solutions can translate text in .jpgs and .pngs, and the very best do it without requiring image source files (which are created in Photoshop or other image-design programs). This generates costs associated with design work, and it’s something not all companies can initially afford to translate.

You can sidestep this operational complexity by externalizing translatable text from images. Most CMSs natively accommodate this functionality. (If your CMS doesn’t support this functionality, look into a software solution like Adobe Dynamic.)

“Overlaying” text atop images creates translation-related benefits, including:

  • It helps technologies and linguists more easily detect and localize the text, with no design-driven translation required
  • It enables companies to change background image files whenever they want, with no regard on how it might impact the localized UX
  • It creates cost savings through instant—and low-cost or free—re-use of previously translated segments via translation memory
  • Separating text from images also makes it detectable and indexable for regional search engines

Image Best Practices for Website Designers

Great marketers know that multimedia assets stimulate consumer engagement and reinforce brand image. But did you know that the way your team designs these elements impacts the cost and time it takes to translate them? Here are some simple ways you can streamline this process to reduce translation costs.

DO: Set the positioning of the nested elements on the page with the “parent” element.

If an image needs to be resized, the new dimension should “push” the surrounding text or image elements vertically or horizontally, avoiding overlaps between elements on the page that can diminish user experience.

DO: Ensure the positioning source code of the element represents its visual positioning on the page.

If an image is visually placed on the right side of the page, its positioning code should be align: right, float: right. Positioning should be defined as relative to other elements, not as a fixed distance measurement.

This ensures that the images will always be placed relative to the other content rather than in an absolute position, which can be problematic when content moves around on the page.

DON’T: Use width and height attributes.

The dimensions of the image should define its size on the page. Images should “float freely” on the page and should be coded accordingly so they can adapt to the other content around them.

Best Practices for Video Website Translation

Video is perhaps the most effective medium to leverage on digital channels, and with the right vendor, it’s absolutely possible to translate or dub on-screen video and audio elements (such as text-based motion graphics or voiceovers) to make pixel-perfect localizations of videos.

But while this approach delivers a seamless in-language viewing experience, the project’s in-depth software, skills and creative demands often generate high localization costs that most companies aren’t willing to pay for.

There are clever ways around this, however. As with images, you can externalize text from video files—i.e., the closed-captioning / subtitle text—and translate this simple text-based content instead. You can use .sub (subtitle) or .xml files to do this.

This also improves regional SEO, since the translated subtitle content is also now crawlable by local search engines.

Best Practices for Omnichannel Translation

You can also use this “text extraction” approach to affordably translate many media types—including in-store signage, PDFs, mobile applications, emails and more.

To leverage this capability, your team should externalize the content from your omnichannel assets using file types such as .xliff (for InDesign source files), .xml (for mobile applications), .html for marketing emails, etc.

Content that has been separated from design elements can be more easily and inexpensively localized for many markets.

Checklist for Finding a Multimedia-Savvy Translation Services Vendor

There are several ways to determine if the translation services you’re working with have the technologies, skills and software needed to effectively localize multimedia content in a timely manner. If they mention any of these shortcomings, they may not be a good fit for your robust translation needs:

  • Offering translation of on-site text only, with no multimedia translation
  • An inability to identify translatable multimedia assets at all
  • Separating text and multimedia content for translation and distributing them to different teams (This isn’t a best practice; translators need to see how these elements interplay visually on the webpage.)
  • Identifying images for translation without supporting the translation itself or its related production tasks
  • An inability to translate interactive applications

When choosing a translation solution, come to discussions armed with these best practices for content detection, images, and more:

Content Detection

It’s critical to choose a website translation solution that can identify translatable multimedia content and efficiently route each asset to linguists and designers for immediate translation.

You shouldn’t have to tell the vendor where your translatable content “lives” on a server or CMS. The vendor’s content-parsing and change-detection technologies should automatically identify new or updated content, and its online location.

Image Detection

Many companies feature “hero” images on their homepages or other high-profile website sections that change frequently. During the course of a week—or even from day to day—they upload completely new versions of these hero images. To streamline this process, they often use the same filenames as the images they are replacing.

The underdeveloped content-detection technologies of most translation services often define “new” images as images with unique filenames. That means they can’t recognize when a company overwrites an image with a new version with the same filename.

Look for a vendor with smart technology that recognizes the special checksum “thumbprint” that all images have and knows when new images require translation—even when they have the same filename of images that we’ve already translated.

Source Files

Does your website translation vendor expect you to provide source files (such as Photoshop .psds) for translation? You shouldn’t have to. Technologies exist that enable skilled designers to localize these assets with relative ease.

Great vendors never ask you for source files to localize your multimedia content.


If you choose to embed translatable text into your flattened image files, be sure to ask your vendor for examples of translated images. Any copy must be in-language, while maintaining the brand’s existing corporate identity. The translated image should look like it was created by whomever created the original asset.

It should also be culturally sensitive, featuring regionally-relevant people in photos—when relevant. Rapid translation turnaround is imperative.

For translating images, a service-level agreement of about one business day is a best practice.


Ask your website translation services provider about its experience localizing videos. Great vendors should know when to use subtitles rather than dubbing.

And when it comes to localizing subtitles, look for a vendor with expertise in creating dynamically loaded subtitles that “live” outside a digital video but is loaded when the video plays. These subtitles display at the right time on-screen, without having to be embedded into the actual video.

Interactive Applications

Great website translation services providers can parse translatable content from the code of interactive applications.

No matter what the code language is—AngularJS, JavaScript, JSON, and more—great content-parsing technology enables linguists to easily localize these experiences.

Optimization for SEO

Also inquire about the vendor’s ability to translate image alt-text, using market-relevant localized SEO keywords. This provides additional signals to regional search engine crawlers, which can help improve organic traffic.

Read more about website translation in our ultimate guide to website translation.


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