The Process of Making our Marketing Website Multilingual
Part 2: Content and Translator Preparation
This post is the second installment of a 4 part series on how we implemented our own multilingual website as part of our recent site redesign project. In the first post, I discussed our selection process around which languages we would provide translations for and what resources we would use to translate into each language.
In this part 2, I’m going to cover the decision process around which content to translate, and how we prepared our translators to effectively translate the content we had selected. Let’s dive in.
Website Content Evaluation
Like many B2B websites, our marketing website includes the following content:
- Top-Level Marketing Messages: these include our overall branding messages, conveyed primarily on our homepage, our product descriptions and messaging covered on our homepage and in our Product section, customer information including testimonials and case studies presented in our Customers section, information about the company in the About section, and pricing plan information on our Pricing page.
- Resources: guides, white papers, webinar presentations and infographics, all with an educational focus on the industry, best practices, and using our platform most effectively.
- Our blog: articles on best practices, localization tips, Transifex product updates, technical information, and some customer spotlight information. (You’re probably familiar with our content if you’re reading this post!)
On our site, we also link to our Documentation; however, this is not technically part of the marketing website, and translation of this information should be considered separately, as a project in and of itself. We’ve discussed the importance of providing this information to multilingual audiences in prior posts. You should take the time to consider this information in the context of your overall content localization strategy development.
Why not just translate everything? That could be the answer for some companies; however, website sections that include a lot of changing content may be difficult for a business with limited staff and/or translation resources to handle effectively. Some types of content require special considerations in order to translate them effectively. So regardless of whether you end up with a decision to translate all your content or just some, going through a systematic process of evaluating your various content sections and types is an important step for every company to take in order to handle the translations properly.
Some additional comments about the content evaluation process:
- In general, particularly when starting out, it’s best to look at entire sections, or at least distinct subsections, of your site when determining whether content should be translated. Dealing with a translate/no-translate decision at the page or content module level means your site and process will need lots of customization. This approach works when you have lots of resources at your disposal, but is not recommended for smaller organizations or those just starting out with a multilingual initiative. Start with a straight-forward approach, then expand from there.
- Benchmarks for your industry can be a handy comparison tool. Research what others in your space are doing and follow suit.
- Always keep your customers top of mind. The reason you’re developing multilingual content is to support them better, so providing a good experience must be considered at every step of your planning and implementation process.
Top-level marketing pages
Obviously these pages are the heart of any company’s web presence so must be translated if you’re developing a multilingual strategy. The question here is whether every page must be translated, or whether there are level 2 or level 3 sections of the site that get little traffic or don’t have applicability for all audiences.
On the prior version of our site, our Integrations section was not translated because so much of it was quite technical. We decided that this time around, we would translate as much of this section as possible, because our integrations are often extremely important to our customers’ success.
One area where we plan not to translate is our new Press page (not yet live on our new site). This page will include our press releases and media coverage of our company and relevant market areas. As of now, we are only publishing our press releases in English. And we are including links to original source articles from the media. All of this content should appear in its original format for sake of accuracy.
In general, though, our entire set of marketing pages, with just some minor exceptions, are or will be translated.
Although our resource library of white papers and infographics is still relatively small, we’ve decided not to translate this section of the site — yet. Recently we’ve had a big focus on producing webinars which are all delivered in English, which further complicates the equation, so for now, we determined that we can only handle publishing these pieces in English in a high-quality way, even though we could easily afford the translation aspect of delivering. And why English? Of course, we’re a U.S.-based company so our content is created in English, but beyond this, many technologists have a working knowledge of English, so for our product area, this is an approach that works.
Our Case Studies, however, are presented in our Customers section (included in the top-level marketing pages section above), and these pages are translated, giving our international visitors some resources in their native languages.
In general, this phased approach to translating long-form content is fairly standard for growing technology B2B businesses.
Like many B2B companies, we’ve chosen not to translate our blog articles. This decision stems from two major factors: 1) cost of translations, since we are publishing around 3,000 words per week, and 2) manageability. It would be time prohibitive to have to front-load our publication calendar to accommodate the workflow of ordering and receiving translations, and managing the translation process for 2 articles weekly is too much of a time commitment for our small team. Since our best performing articles frequently become the source material for one of our long-form guides, this content will ultimately get repurposed (and down the road, translated) as part of our Resources section.
While these pages might jump out as important to deliver in other languages and easy to manage, since they don’t change frequently, the calculus here is more complicated. These pages present language created by U.S. attorneys according to U.S. law. Merely translating the words is not enough. There must be legal review, at a minimum, or better yet, legal translation to make these documents correct in other languages. Then, of course, you’re opening Pandora’s box as to where the legalese could be applied (in a German court, for example?), so your best bet is to keep legal content in your source language only.
So the net of our analysis is that we’d translate all our marketing top-level pages with the exception of our press pages, we would not translate our Resource section for now, although will likely revisit this section of the site within the next 6 months to a year, and we won’t translate our Blog content or Legal pages for the foreseeable future. Again, this is a fairly standard set of decisions for a B2B marketing website.
Other categories of businesses (B2C companies, retailers, content publishers) will have some of the same content types, but will also have different sets of content to consider. You can follow the same process for deciding what your content translation strategy will be, considering cost, timing, and extenuating factors, all within the context of the customer experience.
At this stage, time permitting, we should have produced an official Style Guide for our translators. As you may have guessed, as a start-up on a short timeline, we opted to provide some stylistic direction without the formality of creating a complete style guide document. This is a step we’ll take before expanding to a wider language set and/or adding in Resource content to our translation mix. Because we have just started with our top-level marketing content, the instructions for our translators were relatively simple. Here are some of the key guidelines we provided:
- Branding – our brand names, Transifex and Transifex Live, do not get translated.
- Style and tone – we try to approach users with a very casual and conversational tone, using descriptions and language that people would say. We’d like to maintain this voice globally.
- Appropriate to the culture – in U.S. English, we frequently use the imperative voice. This is straight-forward and usually relatively easy to translate, however, at times, other cultures may find this structure too demanding. We’ve asked our translators to modify the structure of translations, if required, to have readers feel that we are friendly and open, not demanding or pushy.
- Pricing – while we sell internationally, we denominate all our pricing in U.S. dollars, paid via credit card. This means that our translators needed to understand that we wanted the descriptions of our pricing plans translated, but the currency and values needed to remain unchanged.
If you’re looking to create a Style Guide, there are lots of great examples and resources available. Microsoft, for example, has one of the largest localization efforts in business, and all their Style Guides are available for download. You can safely follow their format in its entirety, given its wide usage, or pick and choose from the model they’ve implemented in a way that suits your business.
At this point, we were ready to actually do the work. Next time, we’ll walk through the details of how the implementation process unfolded. Stay tuned…