For B2B and B2C companies alike, sales will be made and first impressions will be formed based on what someone finds on your website. It’s for this reason, and especially for companies with global aspirations, that managing appropriately translated content on your website is absolutely imperative. However, translating and arranging content that not only captures the nuances of the original language but also matches your brand’s image is more complicated than simply copying and pasting text into a translation tool.
Differentiating Between Translation, Localization, and Transcreation
Translating content word-for-word is one thing, but translating your content in a method that transfers the correct meaning from one language to another, in other words localizing your language, is a more complicated process. And creating entirely new content to fit a different demographic is even more challenging.
- Translation entails a word-for-word translation of your content. For some websites, this can be achieved with a simple Google Translate integration. However, for companies with global ambitions, we adamantly discourage selecting this option. A simple translation will not capture the meaning of what you are trying to communicate, and with marketing, meaning is everything.
- Localization is the most common option. Localization involves not only translating the language of your content but also adjusting the meaning to fit a different sociolinguistic understanding. With this option, it’s likely that you will have to develop a relationship with a translation and localization service like ones found on GALA Global's directory. Translation and localization services often employ native speakers, and their process usually includes making two copies of whatever content they have translated - the foreign language translation and a copy of that new translation in whatever language it was initially submitted - to show where changes were made. From a design perspective, global websites should feel local, with a strong sense of international outreach and understanding. This can be achieved with translated text, global imagery, and being careful not to include links to content that isn’t translated.
- Transcreation involves adjusting the entire body of content to meet the language and social setting of a specific demographic. Instead of writing content to be localized to a different language, the content may be developed in that language to begin with. This extends even to the specific language used to associate with your brand, which will enhance and expand itself to meet colloquial preferences.
Hiring a Translation Firm To Localize Your Content
There are other ways to generate localized content without hiring a translation firm; perhaps you task your marketing department with generating translations or you have employed a native speaker who can translate content for you.
We however, highly recommend hiring a translation service. Not only are they efficient, but you can trust that your content has been translated in the best way to maximize localization by experienced professionals. In our experience, our clients who have hired translation firms have always come out ahead, with a lot fewer headaches at the end of the process.
Business with translation firms, depending on who you choose to hire, can be flexible. Translation firms usually charge by price per word, but that rate varies by country tier. (For example, typically Arabic costs more to translate than French because the work is considered more time-consuming). They can generate several translations at once, which can then be imported and uploaded as a bundle.
The added benefit of hiring a translation service, in addition to generating appropriately localized content, is that develop a “translation memory” over time, and the process of translation speeds up after acquiring a familiarity with the language specifically associated with your company’s content.
Tips for Working With Translation Firms:
- Hire a content manager who can internally organize content that needs to be translated or updated, keeping your content moving and the writing process flowing. Maintaining localized content is a consistent effort and keeping it up to date requires that each piece of content is consistently sent to a translation firm. Updating your content is a major editorial process, crucial to maintaining your website’s marketing and image - like its SEO value.
- Select a translation firm that specializes in your industry; they have experience with terminology unique to your business.
- Order your translations in bundles (one piece translated into multiple languages) so that you can publish your content, in its various translations, all at once.
- Monitor your website’s analytics to be aware of what translations should be prioritized. Because some translations cost more than others, knowing what’s crucial for your users will help you save.
The Admin Experience: Configuring Translated Content on Your Website
Configuring localized content on your website can be summed up in a single phrase: one site, one database. The key is to keep content management as organized as possible on the administrator’s side while making website browsing as streamlined as possible on your user’s side.
When to Make Your Translated Content Available Through a Parent Page
In most cases, if you’re trying to offer localized content then the soundest option is to make your translations available through a parent page. In this case your parent page would be the page with your original content, and your translated pages would be duplicates of that original page. By connecting them through a parent page, this communicates to your CMS (Content Management System) that these pages are only to be made available one at a time.
A new URL is also generated for those translated pages connected through the parent page. For example, Apple’s homepage is www.apple.com, which appears in English. After selecting Japan on their region menu, their homepage features Japanese content, and their URL appears www.apple.com/jp/. This increases organization on the administrator’s side without causing confusion - like the appearance of multiple homepages in one drop-down menu - on the user’s side.
Note: For Drupal CMS administrators, this process is incredibly simple and you can find detailed how-to configuration explanations here.
When To Make Your Translated Content Available on a New Website
Sometimes, especially when taking a transcreation route, the more lucrative option is to build out an entirely new website to host your translated content. For companies with a high rate of website visitors from other language regions, directing that web traffic through a single parent page may spell a bottleneck disaster. Creating a new website for different language regions will be the simplest way to avoid that.
When to Integrate an Automatic Translation Widget
In the instances where making translated content is more of a functional necessity and doesn’t reflect on your brand image, integrating an automatic translation widget may be the best choice for you, especially if your website represents a smaller company. For example, the Seattle Public School website uses a Google Translate integration to maintain word-for-word translations of its content in a wide variety of languages—but this decision comes from a functional, rather than marketing, perspective.
The User Experience: Magento (Adobe Commerce) Ecommerce and Drupal CMS Examples
How translated content will appear to your user depends on a variety of factors - as we briefly discussed above. Management of how your user discovers that translated part of your website will depend on how you configure your website to handle web traffic. As an example of what determining the user experience will look like, we will first use the Drupal CMS.
When it comes to managing and updating localized content, Drupal is one of the most navigable systems to configure. Drupal offers native support for every language and includes full right-to-left and left-to-right textual arrangement support. Through community modules, it can be integrated with most of the popular translation management engines and has string-based matching as well as export and import capabilities to process translations.
*Note: Drupal does not come with a translation tool, and any translation work will either have to be done by a third-party company.
Cascading Language Negotiation List on Drupal
Drupal handles several language detection scenarios to get users to the correct language website. These detection methods cascade to meet your particular use case.
Drupal can be set to automatically check the country url (often ISO codes like /ja-jp), then the browser’s country and language setting, we then sometimes add IP detection via Maxmind, and finally activate a manual language switch block in the User Interface (UI) to guide the user to an appropriate language experience. This process is highly configurable and can handle most detection use cases. In Drupal, this is managed via the detection and selection admin screen:
- URL: This option selects the language displayed based on your website’s URL (See the When to Make Your Localized Content Available Through a Parent Page section above). If the language is specified in the URL, your website will appear in that language. If the language specification is absent from the URL, your website will default to the succeeding option in your arranged list.
- Session: Your website appears in a language based on a request or session parameter.
- User: If a browser has an account with your website it will revert to its preferred language once they have logged in.
- Browser: Your website’s language will be determined by the browser’s settings
- Default: Your website will appear in its original language setting, untranslated.
This list can be customized to order these options however you wish, and if the preceding option cannot be applied (If the language preference isn’t included in the URL or the user is visiting your website for the first time and doesn’t have any established session parameters) then the succeeding option will activate.
Managing Store Views in Magento
Managing translations in an ecommerce platform is different than the process used over a CMS. With an ecommerce platform, it’s important to tag all content that needs to be translated, including any content superimposed over buttons and menus like “cart” and “wishlist.” With Magento, registering content for translation is a simple process that involves incorporating Magento’s provided Locale module.
Magento’s Locale module wraps all text on the page, enabling the administrator to generate a complete XML file that takes all the copies from the module. This file is then sent to the translation agency and then returned with localized, translated content.
Managing store views and versions of your original content displayed in a different translation is a simple process within Magento. Creating new store views, instead of creating a new root option, is the best option, as Magento can only run a single root category - storefront - at a time. After creating a new store view, uncheck Use Default Value and replace the base language with your translation.
Magento store view management
Unlike the structured format of the cascading list in Drupal, controlling user accessibility in Magento is more hands-on. Magento’s system can be configured to detect the user’s location. Once it does, it sets a cookie that chooses the store view that corresponds to that location—and the translation is displayed.
*Note: For our how-to on configuring Localization in Magento check out our post here.
Bear Group’s Experience with Translation and Localization
Bear Group doesn’t provide translation services but we will provide all the necessary tools for the translation vendor, including the configuration of your website to help with the display of translated and localized content. We have extensive global web experience and a long history of working as a web development team for and with several major translation and localization services.
Precor has been our largest localization client with five global regions, twelve languages, and forty-eight specific language-country ISO code instances. We provided all structure, import, and export capabilities. Another of our previous clients was GALA (Globalization & Localization Association), a trade group for localization vendor services, and a great resource to research localization vendors.