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Three Best Practices for Building a Multilingual Website

A site that supports multiple languages has numerous benefits. With a multilingual website you can reach more people, generate more traffic, provide a better customer experience, and increase conversion rates. But building a multilingual website is complex. You’ll have to carefully consider which technology to use and find partners with the know-how you need. These best practices will help your multilingual website deliver the results you're seeking.

1. Choose an experience platform that supports multilingual websites

If you want you a multilingual website, one best practice is to design your website with that in mind from the outset so that no technical issues pop up unexpectedly. Begin with at least two languages. If you don’t do this, you might need to make drastic changes to your website-that can be as demanding as building a site from scratch-when you’re ready to add languages.

Achieve unparalleled speed and reliability through translation integration.

To achieve this, you’ll need a digital experience platform that was architected with best practices for managing a multilingual website in mind. Look for features like language fallback, which controls which items or fields reuse content from another language and which items and fields you want to translate. You should also look for approval workflows and customizable layout options to suit your specific market demands.

2. Pick a solution partner who understands multilingual website best practices

Selecting a solution partner with expertise in language versioning is just as vital as getting the technology right. In Europe, many businesses are lucky to have a long history of working with multiple languages and are well versed in building a multilingual website. When selecting your solution partner, an experienced solution architect can make a huge difference. Partners should have in-house platform experts who understand the importance of multilingual website best practices in the solution and the skills to bridge the technical solutions with your business goals.

3. Involve multilingual content experts

Finally, you need a translation partner who will help your multilingual website project become a success. The smart move is to include your translation partner early in the process—the sooner, the better. They'll help you think ahead about potential issues so that you can build a robust platform.

Improve customer experience by speaking the right language.

The following examples show why working with an experienced language partner is a best practice for your multilingual website:

  • Text expansion—source and target languages might require different amounts of space on a page. For example, content in German is usually longer than the same content in English. And Finnish words are difficult to hyphenate because they contain so many consonants.

  • Text direction—some languages are written from right to left (RTL). These RTL languages, which include Hebrew and Arabic, need to be formatted accordingly.

  • Font support—this isn't complicated when you offer standard Western European languages such as English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian. However, if you'd like your site to support Eastern European or Asian languages, you will need to make sure you can support characters from these languages.

In short

Remember these three best practices for multilingual websites, and you'll have a better chance of standing out from your competitors: 1) choose a digital platform built with multiple languages in mind, 2) pick an experienced solution partner, and 3) involve multilingual content experts early in the process.

This may seem like a lot to take in, but by following best practices for your multilingual website, you'll improve your ability to reach more people, get more traffic, provide a better experience, and increase conversion.

Jesper Lehrmann is Product Director for Connectivity at LanguageWire, where he creates integration solutions that aid continuous growth and process optimization. Find him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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