U.S. consumers spent $870.78 billion online in 2021, up 14.2% year over year. It’s the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth over the last two decades. In today’s ecommerce world, your customers expect to be able to buy from you online. In a very real sense, your website is your storefront. But is it an effective one?
As you expand your business into global markets, you need to ensure your website is accessible to those customers too. Research shows that 40% of people won’t buy from websites in other languages. And that 76% of people prefer to buy products with info in their native language. Content translation should be a priority if your goal is to attract customers from foreign markets.
But creating an effective website isn’t just about translating your website content. Localizing that content and the entire on-site user experience (UX) is also critical. What do website localization services entail? And how can you find the right website localization service provider for you? Let’s answer these questions.
What is website localization?
Localization is the process of adapting a piece of content from one language into another. This process accounts for cultural nuances, imagery, layout, and more. Website localization specifically focuses on re-designing your website's user experience to accommodate multiple languages and cultures.
Localization may include adjusting product offerings, layout considerations, navigational flow, language, and imagery for different regions. Plus, on a technical level, website localization ensures that you can process payments. It also ensures your website can handle other languages, especially if they differ from your source language. (Think right-to-left languages like Arabic or Hebrew, or character-based languages like Japanese or Chinese.)
What’s the difference between website localization and translation?
Localization is often confused with the related (but not identical) process of website translation. The distinction between the two is important.
Website translation focuses on making website content available in other languages via the following methods:
Human translation services. Professional translators study for years to perfect fluency and manually translate content in multiple languages. Done right, they can become a dedicated extension of your team, offering high-quality website translation.
Machine translation (MT). This involves using software engines to translate content from the source language to the target language. It’s a great first step for companies just beginning their localization efforts and looking for fast, cost-effective translations.
While translation is a key part of localization, it’s only one aspect. Localization has a broader scope. It’s what makes your website feel like it was made for your target market, regardless of where they access your site. But, as you can imagine, localization projects can be complex, especially for a larger website.
This is where localization software like Smartling is invaluable. With a combination of software and language services, Smartling allows customers to translate quickly and at a low cost while maintaining quality.
Why is website localization important?
A website is often a company’s top channel for driving awareness, generating leads, and making sales. But what if your site isn’t localized? What if it doesn’t acknowledge cultural differences to create an accessible, enticing experience for visitors in international markets? Unfortunately, your efforts to attract and convert potential customers will likely fall flat.
Website localization prevents that. You use localization to reach the full potential of your website - your online storefront.
Which part of your website should you localize?
We’ve established why this process is valuable. Yet, as you can tell, website localization projects can have a lot of moving parts. And the larger your website, the more there is to account for. Can you get away with only localizing a few of your main website pages? For best results, you’ll want to localize the following:
- Short-form website copy, whether it’s informational or mainly for branding purposes
- User interface and user experience copy
- Product pages and landing pages for advertising campaigns and lead generation efforts
- Long-form content marketing efforts across formats (e.g. blog posts, flyers, one-pagers, multimedia videos and slideshows, and ebooks)
- Keywords so you’re targeting terms that are relevant to international search engines
This could easily add up to hundreds of pages of content and copy. One way to dramatically speed up the process is to utilize a translation proxy, like Smartling’s Global Delivery Network (GDN).
Once configured, anytime you update your website copy and content, the translation proxy automatically ingests content from your website into the platform for translation. Once the content is authorized and translated—either via human or machine translation, Smartling’s GDN delivers the translated content to site visitors instantly in their native languages. Not only is it the fastest way to deploy localized web experiences, but it also results in significant cost savings.
Learn how AdRoll leveraged the GDN to cut its translating time by more than half and achieve an average of 40% in savings.
How to prepare your website for localization
Developing multilingual websites requires preparing your website ahead of localization efforts. This design and development process is called Internationalization, often abbreviated as I18n.
Internationalization provides the foundation for the code in your website to adapt to future markets and languages. This process, which is best done by software developers on your team, entails the following:
- Creating placeholders in the HTML or other code 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
All of the above, in effect, neutralize your code, content, and design so that you can more easily adjust it.
What to look for before hiring a website localization service
Good news! You’ve already found the best website localization service for your next project. Customers have voted Smartling #1 on G2 for enterprise translation management. Plus, hundreds of customers around the world rely on Smartling 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. High-quality, fast translations
For many companies, their existing website localization process is broken. The wrong website service provider will likely force you to jump through hoops. Or to 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 weeks to turnaround times. Plus, it often opens you up to errors and inconsistencies across platforms. Social media management company, Hootsuite, was experiencing these challenges before working with Smartling.
Our automated, streamlined website localization process makes it easy for teams to continuously deploy new website updates. It also allows them to tinker with their messaging without worrying about delays or translation errors. Colleen Fehr, Hootsuite’s former Project Manager of Web Growth, had this to say:
“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
All in all, a streamlined website localization process cuts down on translation time. This increases speed to market, which is critical for website deployment.
Your messaging, products, and information are constantly changing. Maybe it’s because you publish a new blog post every week, or your product pages change often as a result
2. A website localization process that fits your development cycle
When AdRoll (mentioned earlier) came to Smartling, they were spending more than 93 hours per translation project. With our help, they cut their time to market down to a third of that. This enabled 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 instead of creating extra cycles (and headaches). When it comes to finding the best website localization services, you want a provider that meets the following key criteria:
- Offers a single source of truth. Every piece of content translated with Smartling lives in one centralized platform. This gives translators the ability to leverage translation memory, glossaries, and style guides across all content and projects. Access to linguistic assets helps reduce overall translation costs.
- Uses professional human translators. Our full-service translation agency employs 100% native-speaking translators, all trained on and using the Smartling platform.. We make it easy to connect our translators into your existing workflows so that you won’t even have to disrupt your current process.
- Gives visual context. Our Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tool provides visual context, enabling translators to preview translations on the web page, mobile app, or wherever they'll live. This captures the exact layout, giving you the ability to translate in context.
3. Quality assurance and localization performance optimization
Quality assurance (QA) is one of the trickiest parts of any website localization project. This is especially true for managers who may not be fluent in every language they’re working with. (Call us if you’re fluent in 30 languages!)
For example, Pinterest wanted translation management software to ensure consistency across every version of its site. While decreasing turnaround time was also a concern, the team had built its brand on a high-quality, curated experience. So, naturally, they needed to ensure high-quality translations, and they did so with Smartling.
“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 these elements:
- Translation memory
- Style guides for your extended translator team
- Built-in quality assurance checks for proofreading
Smartling is the website localization service you need
Smartling invented its cloud translation software to help companies address all of the challenges that come with delivering compelling consumer experiences throughout the world. Today, hundreds of companies translate their websites, mobile and web applications, marketing documents, and much more, with Smartling. See what Smartling can do for you, book a meeting with us today!