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10 Steps to Successfully Building a Multi-Language Website

Michael Graw
10 Steps to Build a Multi-Language Website
You want your online business to be accessible to as many potential customers as possible. So, it only makes sense to present your website in more than one language.

A multi-language website not only enables you to expand your business to multiple countries but also caters to non-English speakers in the regions you already serve.

Building multilingual sites is surprisingly easy if you’ve created your site with one of the best website builders. In this guide, we’ll show you how to build an outstanding multi-language website in just 10 steps.

1. Define Your Goals

The first thing you need to do when creating a multi-language site is to figure out what your goals are. What language or languages do you want to create sites for and why?

Ideally, you should have a target market in mind. That may be a specific country or groups of people who use the internet in a language other than English. Be granular in thinking about who this target audience is since many languages have different dialects and every country or population has its own culture to which you’ll want to tailor your site.

Building a new version of your site for even a single language is a significant undertaking. If you want to expand to multiple languages, it’s a good idea to approach each language one at a time. Move on only after you’ve finished the site for one new language so you can immerse yourself in the language and culture while you’re building the site.

2. Choose the Right Website Builder

After choosing a language, choosing the right website builder is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when creating a multi-language website. Website builders like Wix and Site123 offer tools that make it impressively easy to create a new version of your site for each language you want to add. Other site builders even offer automatic translation.

Of course, there’s more to choosing a website builder than just whether it supports multilingual sites. Look closely at the website design tools and templates to make sure they’re easy to use. Flexibility is also important since you may need to modify some aspects of your site design to accommodate right-to-left languages.

If you’re not sure which website builder is right for you, check out our guide to the top 10 website builders for small businesses.

3. Choose Your Domain Configuration

When building multi-language websites, there are two ways to structure your site. You can house all of the different versions of your site under a single domain, or you can give each version of your site its own domain.

Keeping each version of your site under a single domain means you’ll have URLs that look like mywebsite.com/en/mypage and mywebsite.com/es/mipágina. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to pay for a new domain for each language version of your site. However, you will end up with a lot of pages to manage, and you may find yourself constantly fixing broken links.

If you put each version of your site on its own domain, you’ll have URLs that look like mywebsite.com and mywebsite.es. You must purchase each of these domains, so this approach can get expensive if you translate your site into many different languages. The benefit is that content in each language is managed separately and there’s less chance you’ll wind up with broken links. 

4. Translate Your Content

Now that the infrastructure behind your site is ready, it’s time to translate your content. If you’re not a native speaker, using a translation service that will automatically translate your content is a good place to start.

However, you shouldn’t rely on Google Translate or other translation apps alone—they’re rarely completely accurate. Your audience will notice right away if your content doesn’t make sense or has a lot of grammatical issues. It makes your business look unprofessional and can drive away customers.

If you’re not comfortable translating your website on your own and don’t have someone on your team who can help, it’s a good idea to hire a professional translator. 

5. Set Up Your Language Selection Menu

If you have multiple language versions of your site, you need to give users a way to switch between them. The simplest way to do this is to add a language switcher menu to the top right corner of your site. This is where most big brands put their language menu, so it’s the first place users will look for it when they land on your site.

When setting up your language switcher, be sure to think about the user experience. List each language option in its own language. That is, offer options like English, Español, and Français rather than English, Spanish, and French. You also shouldn’t use flags as menu items since those represent individual countries rather than languages.

Another thing to keep in mind is that languages aren’t the same thing as regions. It’s entirely possible that a native Spanish speaker who lives in the US wants to view the Spanish-language version of your US site as opposed to moving onto the international version of your site. If you have different versions of your site for different countries, you can set a default language for each country but still give users the option to switch languages.

6. Keep Your Site Content Consistent

It can be tempting to redesign parts of your website when building a new version of it in a different language. There are cases when it makes sense to modify your design—more on that below—but in general, you should strive to provide a consistent user experience across every version of your site.

That means that although the language may change, the content, images, and layout of your site should remain the same. If your website builder offers global templates, ensuring that everything is consistent should be a breeze.

7. Localize for Specific Countries

There are some instances when you want to change up your content to make sure that it’s relevant to a specific local language or country. For example, when listing prices, you’ll want to convert prices to the local currency for the market your website is targeting.

In addition, it’s important to pay attention to dialectic differences within languages. You wouldn’t use UK spelling when writing for an audience in the US. Other languages are written and spoken differently in different countries, too, and it’s important to keep that in mind on your site.

8. Check for Readability

You may also need to make minor changes to your multi-language website in order to ensure that your content is readable in each language you offer. A specific font might look great in English, for example, but a similar typeface may be difficult to read in a language like Hindi or Arabic. When in doubt, look at what fonts are most commonly used on sites written in the language you’re offering.

Right-to-left languages may also require you to make changes to your site’s layout. Typically, you can simply mirror your page content to accommodate native languages that read right-to-left. Avoid making dramatic layout changes, or else one version of your multi-language website will end up looking very different from all the others.

9. Optimize for SEO

After putting in all this work, you want to be sure that potential customers using search engines in other languages can find your multilingual site. It’s important to optimize each language version of your site for international search engine optimization (SEO), just like you would for your English site.

There are a couple of things you can do to optimize each version of your site. First, translate the URLs and ensure that they make sense in a different language. Next, translate your meta titles, descriptions, and image alt text so your content can be properly indexed by search engines.

It’s also a good idea to research keywords in other languages. You might be surprised to find that the terms that other language speakers search for are different from the search terms that surface your site in English. If you do find new keywords, make sure to incorporate them into your content to help promote your website.

10. Get Feedback

Before you launch your new multi-language site, it’s a good idea to get feedback from native speakers. They can spot translation errors, provide feedback on whether the content is readable, and offer suggestions for colloquialisms that might make more sense in a specific language.

Conclusion

A multi-language website can help you attract a wider audience to your site and open up business in new markets. Most top website builders support multilingual sites, making it easy to get started today.

Michael Graw
Michael Graw is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Pacific Northwest who writes for top10.com.