Multilingual websites: Offering a good user experience

Multilingual websites: Offering a good user experience

The global popularity of e-commerce shows no sign of slowing down. 

The payment system celebrated its 20th birthday on August 11th, with a Sting CD thought to be the first item bought online. Some 95 per cent of people now use the web for shopping, with books (64 per cent), clothing and accessories (60 per cent), and music and entertainment (56 per cent) the top three purchases.  

Figures from CapGemini show that UK shoppers parted with £91 billion online last year, which is more per capita than any other country, and so brands need to make sure their websites offer a good user experience.

This is where multilingual websites come in, as customers are much more likely to complete a transaction in their native language. With only 26.8 per cent of internet users being English speakers, companies are cutting off a lot of potential trade by following a single language strategy.

Considering that hosting websites in 12 languages allows brands to reach 80 per cent of the world, adding websites is something they should really think about. But what goes into a good multilingual portal?

Coding
The language has to be identified in the code of the page. Devices will not be able to automatically identify the language of the text, but this can be can be programmatically determined. By doing so, assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille devices will be able to correctly interpret the language and present it in the right format. Companies also need to consider their domain names, web server configuration, URL structure and page layout.

Navigation
Customers will quickly get annoyed if they cannot access a website in their chosen language. No one wants to be stuck on a portal that makes no sense to them, while finding the right button to change the language can sometimes be tricky. The easiest way to avoid this is to take a user’s IP address to determine what country someone is browsing from, or give them the option to choose their language on the homepage. 

Font size
Text expansion is a big issue when dealing with multilingual websites, as brands need to make sure the text will fit the design of the website, regardless of what language is used. When displaying Chinese, Japanese or Arabic languages, the font size will need to be made bigger so that it can be read. Because of this, the font size of your default language may not be suitable for all languages.

Localization
Simply translating your content into a number of website templates will not create a seamless user experience. This is why localization (as opposed to just a standard translation) should be carried out to ensure cultural and linguistic nuances are taken into consideration. For example, certain graphics may not be suitable for some target markets, while idioms and slang will be lost on users who are not fluent in the language. Remember, you’re looking to convince people to part with their hard-earned cash and so they will expect a level of effort. For example, Booking.com is available in 35 different languages.

Posted by Firms need to lay out their websites in a way that makes sense and will be enjoyable for users.

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