Top 5 Reasons Website Translation Projects Fail and What to Do About It

Global B2C ecommerce sales are expected to hit $1.5 trillion this year. For the first time, people in Asia-Pacific will spend more shopping online than those in North America. With the growth in global Internet purchasing coming from China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Italy and Canada, it’s no wonder that marketers are embarking on website translation projects en masse. Unfortunately, website translation projects often take too long, cost more than expected, and fail to meet expectations.  Let’s look at why this is so and how savvy marketers can succeed where others have not.

Websites are Alive

If website translation is considered a project with a beginning, middle, and an end, it is doomed from the beginning. Websites are alive. They change and grow frequently as new content is added and old content updated daily. If treated as a one-time affair, the translated site quickly goes out of sync and the headaches begin. Even for those who realize the need to constantly keep up with content, tracking changes in text documents or spreadsheets and sending them for translation is laborious.

Solution: Choose a website translation solution that automatically detects and responds to content changes on the fly.

It’s Not Just Words

Website translation involves more than just the words on a website, in order to deliver a truly localized experience things like currency, date formats, and payment methods must be considered. This usually requires developers because it requires changes to the code itself. The developers hate it because it is tedious and unwieldy. Marketers hate it because it invariably takes longer than anyone thinks it will to complete.

Solution: Consider a vendor that uses source webpage parsing to eliminate the need for localized coding.

Context Counts

Most translation is done without visibility into the structure and design in which it will eventually reside. This makes it difficult for even the most talented translators to exactly match their work with what is needed and causes multiple back and forth revisions. It can also result in embarrassing errors as the right word might be different based on the context.

Solution: Translators must be able to view their work in context as they go.  The best translation software solutions provide visual context so translators can consider factors such as space limitations and layout.

Budgets Get Busted

Translation projects that are not centralized can cost considerably more than those that are because content is rarely repurposed and the same sentences get translated multiple times. Translation memory helps eliminate duplicate work, but many translation agencies charge additional fees to manage it, wiping out the cost benefit.

Solution: Translation memory is essential and not all vendors make you pay for it. This can reduce your translation costs by 40-80%.

It’s a Wide World

Website translation goes a long way to increasing sales, but user experience is important as well. If your website is hosted far from your customers, they may experience slow load times and poor performance. Operating out of data centers across the globe is cost-prohibitive for most companies.

Solution: Insist on localized web page delivery. Look for a technology provider that offer a translation proxy tool for website delivery so that your customers are serviced by a data center nearby.

There’s no doubt that website translation is a significant undertaking, but now that you know the pitfalls to avoid, you can find a partner that will help you bring your website to the world, on time, on budget, and with an excellent user experience.


About Nataly Kelly

Nataly brings nearly two decades of translation industry experience to Smartling, most recently as Chief Research Officer at industry research firm Common Sense Advisory. Previously, she held positions at AT&T Language Line and NetworkOmni (acquired by Language Line), where she oversaw product development. A veteran translator and certified court interpreter for Spanish, she has formally studied seven languages, and is currently learning Irish. A former Fulbright scholar in sociolinguistics, Nataly lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter. When she isn’t working, you’ll usually find her translating Ecuadorian poetry, writing books, and exploring the world (36 countries and counting!).