Getting started with website translation

We’ve spoken before on the importance of translating your website when looking to new markets and audiences. Although we are exceptionally proud of the TextUnited services, like most things, we believe that choice is King. We’ll always try to recommend several different options in our blog posts, just like in our guide to freelance translators.

Previously we’ve focused on the relevant individual aspects of translation such as localization or translating images and scanned documents. However, this time we’ve decided to put together a very detailed and ultimate guide to website translation!

Plan Ahead

We created the ultimate guide to website translation because we know website translation can mean a lot of headaches when you have to figure out how to make your website global on your own. Taking a website global isn’t always a straightforward matter. With some planning and consideration at the beginning of your translation journey, you’ll save yourself some headaches down the line.

There are several routes you can consider for your website translation, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Do you want the ease of installing a Google Translate plugin to your website? Perhaps you only want someone to human translate your existing digital source content? Maybe you already have a CMS (Content Management System) and want to add a translation process to your current workflow? Or you might be considering an out-of-the-box website translation solution for your needs?

With so many viable options, there are a few simple questions to consider first to help you make your decision:

#1. Where you create your content: In local documents like Microsoft Word, an organization and collaboration tool like Trello, or directly within your CMS?
#2. How often your source content is being updated?
#3. Is it a requirement that your translated content and source content go live simultaneously?
#4. Who manages the creation and publication of your source content? And who manages its translations?

‘Fire-and-Forget’: Google Translate Plugin

Machine Translation is improving at a frenetic pace as technology and AI advance at breakneck speed. It makes for an incredibly powerful tool; albeit when used for a suitable task or alongside a human component. But if you are looking to attract and keep new customers from international markets, we’d warn you against this approach.

What may seem like an easy and hands-off solution will have your potential new customers running for the hills. There is no shortage of horror stories regarding poorly translated non-localized content. More often than not at the hands of Machine Translation left to its own devices.

If the Google Translate plugin is your be-all-and-end-all translation solution, the only metric you’ll see upticks in is bounce rates.

‘Stick Shift’: The Manual Approach

The manual approach is the ‘old-school’ and decidedly ‘low-tech’ choice in comparison to some of your other options. It is the polar opposite of having a machine translation do all of the work for you. Every element of this is manual, not just the full human translation but the transfer of content too. You’ll most likely find yourself (or your IT department) sending XML, HTML, CSV, or TXT files back and forth. From your CMS database to your translation service provider and back again – it’s exhausting just thinking about it!

With lots of moving parts and depending on your CMS, this approach is often open to various UI and coding issues. What fitted perfectly in English suddenly plays havoc with your formatting in German when you notice the 30% expansion.

Expect unnecessarily long, labour-intensive, error-prone hours with more back-and-forth emails than you can handle. As with everything, each tool has its place, and we’ve included this option for a good reason. For a small site with predominantly static content, perhaps used as a digital signpost to your services – it’s certainly viable.

‘Play Nice’: CMS-Translation Integration

Your CMS can be your best friend when it’s purely managing your content. That might not be the case when it’s playing with others – in this case, your LSP (Language Service Provider). Using one of the most popular CMSs, you’ll have a simple workflow but some of the same caveats as above.

It’s a similar back-and-forth of exporting source content for translation then importing the translated content, albeit all within the CMS. This process can again require a lot of leg work on your part. Especially if you have multiple target languages to translate to and if the source material is regularly updated.

As an integration into an existing service, this can sometimes be a bit of a retrofit. It can certainly help organize your translations. Just don’t expect advanced services like translation memory or terminology management tools as part of the equation.

Nevertheless, you’ll still find the best CMSs will enable users to automate the retrieval and monitoring of content changes from within it. Furthermore, some will offer dedicated user interfaces for translation management in the same CMS environment you use to write content. You’d be remiss to underestimate just how useful functions like that can be.

“A dedicated plugin within your CMS”

A multilingual CMS will usually require the installation of a dedicated plugin within your CMS. There’s a broad spectrum available from free-to-use to paid subscriptions, and generally speaking, the installation process is pretty straightforward. If you do opt to pay for an integrated translation plugin for your CMS, there’s something to bear in mind. SEO is a never-ending pursuit, so be sure to purchase a plugin that can produce translated pages optimized for SEO.

A CMS integration is perfectly suitable for medium to large enterprises with multiple multilingual websites. With frequently updated content and the potential for various owners, contributors, editors, and stakeholders, it can be an effective solution.

‘Bells & Whistles’: Out-Of-The-Box Website Translation

As far as your options go, this is by far the most elegant solution to your website translation needs. Translations are served to your website visitors on-the-fly, pulled from a repository of professionally translated sentences.

At TextUnited, we know a thing or two about this methodology; it’s one that we, ourselves, employ. The bedrock of this approach is a translation memory database that houses all your translated sentences. Source content for translation can arrive in the database in a classic manner, such as imported XLSX files. However, more often than not, it’s our TextUnited robots collecting them directly from your website.

“Once the source material is within the TextUnited system, you have various translation options:

  • Machine translation with human post-editing
  • Fully human translation with your translators
  • Human translations provided by TextUnited (so-called ‘managed translations’)

Providing an arsenal of professional language tools, TextUnited increases the speed and consistency of translations while reducing the cost.

With a push to take your website global, it’s important to keep a uniform brand message and maintain specific terminology. Our translations ensure your company message remains on point across a variety of translations and languages. Likewise, we’ve always found it imperative to keep content away from your HTML code. It prevents mistakes and certainly will keep your IT staff happy, especially if they’ve dealt with a manual approach before!

Our goal in building the website translation feature was that it does not require much involvement from your developers. All your website admin needs to do is install a shortcode in the tag of your website. Then the TextUnited magic can begin! Now, any translated sentence in the translation memory database can be visible to the foreign visitors on your website.

This little code also plays the role of ‘advanced scout’, monitoring your source pages for any new or modified content. Once any changes are detected, translations are initiated automatically with your chosen translators.

What about eCommerce?

If multilingual e-commerce is your arena you don’t have to worry either. Operations selling a multitude of different items require a translation for each one, with many websites showcasing products through slow scroll. As users browse, products appear and are translated on the fly and served to a visitor in the translated language.

As we mentioned, out-of-the-box website translation is an elegant solution, and once up and running becomes a very passive process. It’s highly suited to companies that are rapidly expanding and looking to push multiple international markets. All without the need to divert IT staff and resources to website translation and management tasks.

The ability to deploy language technologies, usually reserved for agencies, means higher quality translation and linguistic consistency. Also, not to mention the savings of both your time and money. It’s a highly automated approach that facilitates the creation of an efficient, multilingual web presence. All while enabling in-context translations and reviews for you and your in-country staff. The only caveat is if you are planning deep customization of each of your translated pages. If the plan is for them to differ substantially from your source page, the out-of-box approach may not fit your remit.


One last word about websites translation

So there you have it – our ultimate guide to website translation! We hope the information provided will help you in your planning phase before choosing your translation methodology. Want to know more about the TextUnited system? Why not take us up on the offer of a free 14-day trial and witness our translation first hand.