As you expand your business into global markets, you need to expand your website, too. That’s where website localization comes in.
In today’s e-commerce world, your customers expect to be able to purchase from you online. U.S. consumers spent $791.7 billion online in 2020, up 32.4% year over year. It’s the highest annual U.S. e-commerce growth over the last two decades.
Your website is your storefront. When choosing between similar products, 75% of the population will choose whichever provides them with information in their native language or preferred language.
But creating an effective, persuasive website isn’t about just translating your information from one language to another. If you want to bring in customers from foreign markets, you must invest in localizing your website. We’ll dive into what that entails and how to find and hire the best website localization services.
Why is website localization important?
Website localization transforms your website — one of the most important channels to drive awareness, lead generation, and sales — into a digital storefront that resonates with your global audience. It considers cultural differences so that your website is a welcoming, exciting place to visit for your customers, no matter where in the world they’re logging on.
- Short-form website copy, both instructional and for your brand
- User experience, functionality, and flow for a seamless experience
- Product pages and landing pages for advertising campaigns and lead generation efforts
- Long-form content marketing efforts, with multiple formats like blog posts, flyers, one-pagers, multimedia videos and slideshows, and e-books
- Adapting SEO for the keywords relevant to international search engines
What is website localization?
Localization, shortened to l10n, is the process of adapting a piece of content from one language into another, taking into account cultural nuances, imagery, layout, and more. Website localization focuses specifically on re-designing the user experience of your website to accommodate multiple languages and cultures.
Localization is what makes your website feel like it’s made for your customers, regardless of where they’re accessing your site. This may mean adjusting product offerings, layout considerations, navigational flow, language, and imagery. On a technical level, website localization ensures that you can process payments. It also ensures your website can handle other languages, especially if they’re very different from your source language (think right-to-left languages like Arabic or Hebrew, or character-based languages like Japanese or Chinese.)
Human translation vs. machine translation
When we talk about website localization, we often confuse it with website translation services. That’s because translation one of the most important aspects of website localization — though it’s not the only aspect.
When you’re looking for website localization services, you want to make sure you have a choice of two different options when it comes to translation:
- Machine translation (MT) uses software like Google Translate to automatically translate content from the source language to the target language. It’s a great first step for companies just beginning their localization efforts. Or it can be a shortcut for retranslation or assessing impact to a web design.
- Professional translators study for years to perfect fluency in multiple languages and manually translate one language to another. Done right, they can become an extension of your team. They offer detailed, real-world translations for your website, though they often have expertise in only one or two languages, so you need to build a solid network as you expand.
Localization software like Smartling uses online tools and automation to go one step beyond translation — making your content feel like it was created in your target market and giving you the best of both machine translation and professional translators. Software like this gives you scalability and flexibility to engage with both human translators and machine translation as needed, without sacrificing time or quality.
How to prepare your website for localization
Developing multilingual websites requires you to prepare your website ahead of any actual localization efforts. This design and development process is called Internationalization, often abbreviated as l18n.
Internationalization provides the foundation for the code in your website to adapt to future markets and languages. In effect, it neutralizes your code, content, and design so that you can more easily adjust it, building a seamless translation process.
This process is best done by software developers on your team, which entails:
- Creating placeholders in the HTML or other code language to handle multiple languages
- Building cultural formatting (numbers, time zones, personal address, and text)
- Organizing source code, creating data integrations and API connections
- Separating code from the UI, so your website is flexible to support any language you choose, not just English
How to find and hire website localization services
Good news — you’ve already found the best website localization service around for your next localization project. Customers have voted Smartling #1 on G2 for our ability to deliver a translation management solution, unlike most other providers on the market. And we’re pretty proud of the growing number of world-class enterprises using us to manage their translation programs from end to end.
Whether you choose to partner with Smartling or not, there are a few things you should look for when you’re ready to hire website localization services:
1. Error-free, fast translation
For many companies, their existing website localization process is broken. The wrong website service provider is likely to force you to jump through hoops or double down on a process that isn’t streamlined for teams to implement.
You may already be manually exporting website content or using spreadsheets to manage completed translations. This adds months of turnaround times and often opens you up to embarrassing errors and inconsistencies across platforms. That’s exactly what was happening with Hootsuite when they came to Smartling.
Our streamlined website localization process makes it easy for teams to continuously deploy new website updates or tinker with their messaging without worrying about delays or errors in translation.
“As soon as we switched to Smartling’s technology and translators, our stakeholders noticed a dramatic difference. Adding visual context to our exported strings gives translators the full picture from the start, and our ability to communicate with the team in real-time consistently helps us prevent problems before they happen.” - Colleen Fehr, Project Manager of Web Growth.
A streamlined website localization process can help cut down on translation time and increase speed to market, which is critical for website deployment. Your messaging, products, and information are constantly changing, whether that’s uploading a new blog post every day or running an A/B test on a product page. You need a website localization service that can keep up.
2. A website localization process that fits your development cycle
When AdRoll came to Smartling, they were spending more than 93 hours per translation project. With our help, they cut that time to 35 hours, enabling them to launch campaigns and products more efficiently and expand into seven new markets.
“Smartling has helped AdRoll reach new markets quickly with quality translations for several years now. Smartling has allowed for hands-free translation management between our various content platforms.” - Gavin Flood, AdRoll
Your website localization process should slot neatly into your existing development process rather than create additional cycles (not to mention headaches). When it comes to finding and hiring the best website localization services, you want to find someone who:
- Offers a single source of truth. Every piece of content translated with Smartling lives on a single platform, giving translators the ability to leverage translation memory across all content and drive down translation costs.
- Uses professional human translators. Our full-service translation agency employs top-level translators leveraging the best translation technology available. We make it so easy to connect to our translators that you won’t even have to disrupt your current workflow.
- Gives visual context. Our CAT tool enables translators to preview translations on the web page, mobile app, or wherever they will live before submitting content. This captures the exact layout, giving you the ability to translate in context.
3. Optimizing your localization performance = optimizing your website performance
Quality assurance, or QA, is one of the trickiest parts of any website localization, especially for managers who may not be fluent in every language they’re working with. (Call us if you’re fluent in 30 languages!)
Pinterest wanted translation management software that would ensure consistency across every version of its site. Even though they were looking to decrease turnaround time as much as possible, the team built their brand on a high-quality, curated experience — and so they needed to ensure high-quality translations, too.
“We are now able to implement fast linguistic quality assurance, and translators enjoy the advantages of seeing content as it will appear on our website. Working with Smartling’s Translation Management System has also eliminated a number of daily localization tasks, once required of our engineers, freeing up their time to work on other projects.” - Silvia Oviedo-López, Localization & International Operations
Every project you engage with should have translation memory, glossaries, and style guides for your extended translator team, as well as a built-in quality assurance check for proofreading.
Smartling’s Quality Confidence Score, the industry’s first predictive learning-powered measure of translation quality, empowers localization teams to achieve greater business results by continuously tracking costs savings, cost estimates, and translation velocity. In turn, this drives down the overall cost over time.
Smartling is the website localization service you need
Smartling invented its cloud translation software to help companies address the vast array of challenges that come with delivering compelling consumer experiences throughout the world. Today, hundreds of companies trust Smartling to translate their websites, mobile and web applications, marketing documents, and much more. See what Smartling can do for you.