Web Internationalization: A Must for Global Business Success

Is your web code in the right language? It seems like a strange question; options like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Python all include highly sought-after features. But if you want your online presence to tap global success, you need to crack the code with web internationalization.

Think of it like translating the script you’re already using so that it supports local currency, date formats, and multiple language options, but without fundamentally altering the function or form of your website. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Find What You’re Looking For

Before you take on any internationalization (often written i18n, where “18” represents the number of characters between the first and last letters of the word), you need to identify the code that needs translating. This could be JavaScript, JSON, basic HTML, or even a mobile application.

There’s no hard and fast rule about what should be adjusted and what can be skipped, but it’s worth remembering native speakers are well attuned to any oddities in currency, date, or format on a web page. And if they have a reason to believe your page isn’t authentic, they’ll head elsewhere. Bottom line? It’s best to internationalize everything you can, as soon as you can.

Step 2: Choose Your Method

There are two basic models of web internationalization: traditional and automated. In the traditional method, your team needs to pull out “translation strings” from every piece of content-linked code – meaning you’ll need to comb through content management systems (CMSs), databases, and all HTML files. Next, you’ll need to determine how easy it is to access this code. The easiest strings are fairly new and well-written, but you may come across older, embedded content that requires a bit more effort.

Once all of your strings are identified and accessible, a translation management system can help you segment each one for its appropriate translation. You can also farm out this task to a professional agency. Although this model works well for largely static websites, it can prove expensive for those that update or push content on a regular basis, as retranslating the same site from scratch each time may consume resources more quickly.

Your other option is going automated. With a global delivery network, also called a translation proxy, you can make a simple DNS change to your website and point it to your new localized site. The network can then automatically detect changes and updates to English-language content and then push these changes to your other localized websites. Think of it like “layering” content instead of replacing it piece by piece.

Automated systems seek out the strings you’re looking for instead of relying on in-house IT to find each one, and then populates localized websites with all appropriate changes. If you opt for a global delivery network model, keep in mind it should be simple to use and configure. For the best results, it must also quickly detect and extract changes in content, and support whatever technology powers your website. Ultimately, automated options have the most value if they work with existing systems.

Step 3: Expand Your Reach

Where does all your content live? Websites are just the frontier of internationalization, and it’s just as important to convert mobile applications. As noted by the Chrome developers’ page, for example, it’s possible to “i18n” your app even if it was initially developed for a just a single locale. In other words, you might find a need to add French (locale code: fr) and Arabic (locale code: ar) to an English app after you’ve debuted and tested it on English-speaking markets. The most crucial step? Internationalizing and localizing your app’s UI to present a streamlined, native-language feel for all your users.

Your website code speaks volumes, and holds the key to unlocking global markets. Effective web internationalization starts with finding eligible strings, choosing the ideal method for your code translation, and going beyond the website to translate the user experience – from site to app and everything in between.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is a freelance technology writer with a passion for telling great stories about unique brands. For the past five years, he's covered everything from cloud computing to home automation and IT security. He speaks some French, is fluent in Ancient Greek and a master of Canadian English — and yes, colour needs a 'u'.