A Basic Rundown of Website Translation Costs

Dimitris Glezos
September 1, 2016
9 min read

The benefits of translating your website are endless. For your current users, being able to deliver your website, marketing messages, and support center content in their native language makes it easier for them to engage with your brand and company. This often leads to increased feelings of support, satisfaction, and loyalty from users. Let’s not forget to mention that having a multilingual website has great potential to increase revenue – a direct result of being able to speak to your customers in the language they’re most familiar with.

While we could spend the entire day listing the benefits of website translation, let’s dive into the topic of discussion: how much does it cost to translate a website?

Factors that influence website translation costs

Because no two websites are alike, it makes sense that the cost of translating ‘Website A’ may be vastly different than the cost of translating ‘Website B’. The goal of this post is to cover the key cost centers involved in the website localization process, as well as the factors that tend to influence higher or lower overall project costs. Specifically, we’ll be discussing:

  1. Translation costs
  2. Infrastructure costs
  3. Staffing costs
  4. Maintenance costs
  5. Technology costs

Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s get started!

Translation costs

If you’re translating your website to another language, there’s going to be a cost for the actual translations, whether you employ a freelance translator, a translation agency, or a Language Service Provider (LSP).

Translation costs are generally based on a price per word model. To estimate your translation costs, you’ll first need to figure out the number of source words on your website which, essentially, is your website’s word count. This number is then multiplied by your translator’s per word cost which can range anywhere from $.05 per word to $.20 per word or more. Now you might be asking, why does such a big range exist?

Generally speaking, the lower end of the translation cost spectrum is made up of native-speaking translators (or companies that employ native speaking translators) who work with specific language sets, for instance, English to French. The mid-range translator group includes those with specific language experience, training, or certifications, and there’s usually some type of review step in the overall translation process to ensure quality.

The costs are most expensive for companies that operate in highly-regulated industries like healthcare, finance, or law. This type of content is typically filled with industry-specific jargon and technical terms that need to be translated with high accuracy. Using healthcare as an example, a poor or incorrect translation on a healthcare website could negatively impact someone’s health and wellbeing.

If you’re translating your website to more than one language, costs are going to increase by the number of languages you’re translating to. A simple calculation to remember is:

number of source words x number of languages x cost per word

What’s also important to mention is that your translation costs reflect work completed by a real human translator. While it might seem odd for us to mention, we stress the importance of using experienced or native-language translators instead of Machine Translation tools.

Yes, Machine Translation tools like Google Translate are free, easy to implement, and get your website up and running in multiple languages almost immediately, but they often fail to deliver the proper meaning behind your content. This isn’t because the translations are bad, but because Machine Translation tools aren’t able to understand things like context and nuances in language. In some cases, the translated sentences are grammatically incorrect. But in others, the translations are offensive or do not reflect well upon local cultures, preferences, and buying behaviors. Your company reputation and brand are worth more than a poor translation, right?

Infrastructure costs

In order for your website to be completely multilingual, your website framework must support multilingual content. In industry speak, we refer to this as internationalization, and it’s typically a best practice for building websites. However, we all know that best practices aren’t always followed, so if your website hasn’t been built on an internationalized framework, there’s going to be an additional cost involved – likely the cost of a developer to make sure each element of your website (web pages, menus, sidebars, etc.) are translatable.

Transifex Live is a JavaScript solution that makes it possible to translate websites that have not yet been internationalized.

URL structure

You’ll also want to determine your website’s URL structure. When a multilingual customer visits your website, what URL will be presented? Let’s use www.transifex.com as an example. This URL belongs to our main website and is written in English. The translated French version of our website uses a subdomain and is presented to the user as fr.transifex.com. There isn’t an additional cost to use subdomains (you own those rights from purchasing your domain), but there are associated setup and maintenance costs. One of the main reasons our team chose to use subdomains was because these costs were easier to control and manage when compared with subfolders.

Your available resources and budget will help to dictate the best structure for your business needs, but the most important takeaway here is that there are costs associated with the website structure you end up choosing. If all of this sounds like another language to you, check out our blog on how we made our own website multilingual. It highlights some of the crucial implementation decisions we had to carefully evaluate, even with our experience in translation and localization.


Finally, infrastructure costs include how you’re hosting your website. While a more affordable hosting provider may be sufficient for your current website, having a website plus multilingual versions of that website will create overhead in terms of memory, database space, and hopefully, increased traffic, all of which will require a more robust (and more expensive) hosting solution.

Ongoing maintenance costs

Websites, especially marketing websites, are never static. You’re constantly adding new copy, or updating and A/B testing old copy. As these changes continue to take place on your source website, it’s going to be crucial to have workflows in place to translate these updates for your adapted websites. Sometimes, changes may only require additional translation costs while others may require development or engineering support. These costs will continue over time, so don’t forget to budget for them!

Staffing costs

You’re also going to need internal staff to manage the translation process, and this can be equal to or, in many cases, more expensive than the cost of translations. Depending on the size of your team, you’ll need one person or a group of people to:

  • Identify content for translation
  • Work with translation vendors
  • Communicate with translators to answer questions
  • Ensure translation quality
  • Publish new translations for multilingual users

In smaller organizations, a current employee may be able to manage the translation process, along with handling other job responsibilities. But large or fast-growing organizations with complex language requirements may need to hire a dedicated project or localization manager.

This provides a nice lead-in to our next and final cost: technology.

Technology costs

Translation technology’s come a long way in the past decade. Today, you can find platforms and tools dedicated to managing the entire translation process. While these technologies are especially helpful for smaller or less-experienced localization teams that need to implement efficient and agile translation workflows, they’re also ideal for larger organizations that need to automate the process and work in a single platform.

Translation technology is a separate cost from what you pay for translations and varies depending on the solution you select. However, the value derived from this type of technology quickly pays for itself as it allows your company to easily scale and add new languages with growth – a pain point that is difficult for organizations to overcome because of the time, resources, and budget required.

Translation Management Platforms

Translation Management Platforms are typically the most robust technological solution, offering a wide set of translation tools that empower each person contributing to a translation effort, including:

  • Translators – When working in a Translation Management Platform, translators gain access to a number of features that make it easier for them to complete and track their work. Furthermore, tools like Translation Memory and Glossaries ensure translation work happens quickly and is in line with company branding and marketing messages.
  • Managers – The right Translation Management Platform will provide transparency and flexibility in the translation process. Managers with specific international launch dates will always know what translations need to be done, who’s working on the translations, and can implement a review process to ensure translations are accurate.
  • Developers – Traditional translation projects require your development or engineering team to go onto your website and manually collect strings for translation. Technologically savvy Translation Management Platforms will expose features like APIs and Command-Line Clients which can automate this time-consuming process, while also reducing the risk for errors.

For organizations that have never embarked on a translation project, this type of technology may seem more advanced than current requirements, however, keep in mind that translation is the first step to international growth. You’ll want to choose a solution or Translation Management Platform that has the potential to scale appropriately with you, not hinder your growth as you begin to expand and take your business to the world.

So remember to account for all the aspects of website translation when budgeting for your project. This complete approach will not only help you to quantify all the costs but plan for successful project execution as well.

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Dimitris Glezos
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