All around the world, businesses are creating websites in English in order to reach out to the largest audience they can. However, if you are looking to target specific countries or audiences, speaking their language is your best option. For that reason, if you are able to keep your website updated in more than just one language, you should definitely do it.
Pick The Right Domain Strategy
This may seem like a detail, but it’s important that you choose the structure of your URLs wisely for multi-lingual websites. If you have one website for all international markets, but just in different languages, you should go for a sub-domain or at least a sub-folder that quickly makes the language obvious in the website address. If every language represents a different market, it would be good to opt for a different URL for each language. Ideally, you can do this by using the country’s top-level domain.
Choose The Right Tools For The Job
To design a multi-lingual website, you will need to make sure that you are using the best possible tool for the job. Obviously, if you already have a preferred web design tool, you should check what are the best options available to make it support more than one language. If this is a totally new project, I would suggest investigating to find the tool that best adapts to your needs.
Don’t Use Flags To Signal A Language
One thing that you will see often on websites is the use of flags as an icon to show a language. This is something you should not do, as it can be interpreted badly in some countries. For example, in my home country of Switzerland, we speak French, German, and Italian as official languages, but nobody would every think of using the Swiss flag to signal one of these languages. On the other hand, using a German, French, or Italian flag for the languages change would irk some of the Swiss visitors. This is just an example, and it gets worst if you do it in the context of more politically tensed countries.
Choose Your Colors Wisely
Color is strongly associated with symbolism and emotion in all cultures around the world. If you are designing a website that is multi-lingual, you need to be aware of cultural sensitivities regarding color in the countries you are targeting. This is a bit of a broader point than others, as it’s something that should have already been considered when designing the branding guidelines, but if you are designing for a smaller structure that doesn’t have such guidelines, you should pay attention to this and do your research, for example by using Spanish cognates worksheet.
Keep Your Branding Consistent
Although you may adapt some things to make more sales for specific markets, you should always be careful that you don’t damage your brand by doing changes that make it unrecognizable. When in doubt, check what the big brands have been doing to adapt to international markets, and you’ll most likely see that they didn’t change that much.