Website translation is the process of taking your website content in its original language and adapting it, often word-for-word, into other languages to make is accessible and useable to global customers.
Your website’s translatable content ranges from on-site static text to multimedia content such as images, videos and PDFs. There’s also:
- “Invisible” metadata text that only search engines and social media platforms see
- Dynamically-loaded content from applications
- User experience notifications such as error messages and confirmation emails
These can all can—and should—be translated, to ensure all customers receive an immersive in-language experience.
There are different degrees of translation, including conventional translation, localization, transliteration, and transcreation. Each approach is unique, and ideal for different translation needs. Learn more details about the different types of translation.
Is website localization the same as website translation?
No. Website localization goes beyond the linguistic word-for-word conversion of conventional translation to create an online experience that resonates within specific markets. Localizing a website requires five key elements:
- Language and regionalisms: Word choice is customized to accurately and authentically convey the brand voice to local customers. This includes phrases that may only be used in specific countries or regions.
- Cultural elements: Communicating the understanding of local date and time formats, units of measure, and holidays and values can make users feel at home.
- Transactional elements: For accuracy and trust, elements such as currency, payment options, addresses and character sets must be relevant to local customers.
- Communication and trust elements: Local phone numbers, addresses, in-language customer support, legal notices and security banners are all key to earning trust from local customers. It also helps equip in-market sales and marketing teams with information needed to serve your customers.
- Navigation and discovery: It’s critical that users can select the language they need, and immediately start interacting with your site in an authentic way.
Utilizing localizations generates more interest and engagement among customers. Learn more about website localization, including how to execute it in persuasive ways.
How can I translate my website?
Translating and localizing your website is fundamentally a technology issue, requiring automation and software to manage numerous workflows and processes. In general, there are three different technologies that can be used to handle these workflows:
- A proxy-based solution
- CMS connectors
- Application programming interfaces (APIs)
Read on to learn more about these approaches. For even more details, check out our The Technologies of Translation e-book.
What is a website translation proxy?
With the proxy-based approach to website translation, technologies are used to leverage the content and structured code of your flagship website. This makes it easy to translate, deploy and operate multilingual versions. This approach can be fully turn-key, meaning it requires little to no customer-side effort to launch or maintain localized websites or manage workflows.
Since localized sites are built from your flagship site’s content and code, the user experience and functionality is consistent across all sites. This continuity also ensures that new content is swiftly—and automatically—detected, translated and published.
Proxy-based translation simplifies the translation process, and eliminates the complexity and effort that traditionally goes with website translation.
How do I use a CMS for website translation?
For companies that prefer to store and control translated content internally (rather than with a translation vendor), it’s possible to translate a website with a CMS connector. The connector allows content to be sent to a translation vendor, and then uploaded back to the CMS for publication.
While this seems like a workable solution, connectors rarely work as advertised. Connectors are standardized and pre-configured, and don’t get along with customized CMSs.
Modifications required to bridge connectors with content platforms are time- and effort-intensive. Even with these modifications, connectors are fragile, and often break after CMS software or security upgrades. This causes delays to translation workflows.
What’s a translation API?
A translation API is typically provided by a translation provider, and has a broader scope than a CMS connector. It gives companies the flexibility to create workflows for any type of content requiring translation, not just content stored in a CMS.
They’re often easier to tailor than a CMS connector, and are compatible with a range of formats, including HTML, XML and even JSON.
Proxy-API hybrid solutions combine the flexibility of the API with the ease of the turn-key solution for an ideal omnichannel translation approach.
What makes website translation different from traditional translation?
Website translation requires technical nuances that make it challenging for traditional translation agencies to handle. Such nuances include:
- Complex ecosystems of platforms and contributors
- The lightning-fast pace of online business
- User demands for fresh, shareable content and interactivity
Traditional translation solutions can’t distinguish code from content, can’t handle coordination of multiple workflows across platforms and contributors, can’t keep up with constant updates, and struggle to preserve the look, feel and function of your website.
Thankfully, digital-first solutions can easily handle code, multiple platforms, fast deadlines and more.
What do I need to consider when translating my website?
Beyond translation technology, here are some other noteworthy challenges to consider about website translation. Follow the links for details and best practices.
- Website translation is difficult, and a traditional agency may not be able to handle it.
- Your website will change over time, and you need a translation solution that adapts with you.
- To remain relevant, your translation solution needs to move fast. Your translation provider needs to move fast, too.
- External content and third-party applications can add risks that make website translation complicated, painful, and costly. Select a digital-first solution that eliminate burdens and costs.
- Brand consistency across languages matters. Top translation vendors can make it simple, painless, and cost-effective.