Website localization: 6 simple tips for startups
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Website localization: 6 simple tips for startups

Today I was tweeted at by someone who sent me a link. I clicked it and I had conflicting emotions about what I saw.

 

It was a landing page for a new service connected with travel and I love travel and everything that has to do with it.

 

The site had nice design. I’m not a designer, but as an ordinary user I found it appealing. Sleek font, bright colours, nice pictures.

 

However, there was a couple of things that were ruining the impression for me. They were language related. So I decided to take some time and write this post with a list of tips that might be useful for startups who are thinking about going global.

 

1 Words are important

 

People judge you not only by the design of your site. They judge you by what you say and by how you say it. You might be good at spoken English or any other language, but that doesn’t neccessarily mean, that you can write marketing copy in that language.

 

Just like you being fluent in your mother tongue does not mean you can write a novel. Well, you can of course, but are you sure someone apart fom your mom will want to read it?

 

2 Hire a pro

 

I have written a post about where you can find a professional translator and what questions you can ask him or her to find out whether they are good (at least the wrong answer might alert you to the fact that something is not right).

 

If you don’t know the target language, hiring a translator is always an excercise in trust. My best advice for you is to try to find a professional with a proven record, someone who’s done a great job at helping someone you know.

 

3 Check your links

 

If you’re targeting English speaking audience, make sure that the link in your Twitter bio or on your Facebook page leads to the English version of your site.

 

You might say that this is not a big deal if a user lands on a German page, for example, and you will be right, cause it’s not. But why miss an opportunity to show your new users that you care?

 

Also, if you’re planning to be global, I would put the English language on the first place in the list of languages. After all, at the moment English is the language of international communication.

 

4 Get the most important translations right

 

I’m sounding a bit like a broken record here, but this is such an important thing.

 

You can ask one of your English-speaking staff members to write posts for your blog. After all, we don’t live in a perfect world and if your content is good, people will forgive a couple of grammar mistakes here and there. Besides, the more you write, the better you’re getting at it.

 

In the meantime I recommend reading lots and lots of English blogs and writing shorter sentences using simple words (by the way, this is also a good way to make your posts more engaging).

 

However, there’re things where you shouldn’t compromise on quality. This is obviously you website copy (especially the home page) and all kinds of legal documents like Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy.

 

I would definitely recommend to hire a translator for these tasks. The translator should (a) be a native speaker and (b) specialize in marketing translation (you might want to find a legal translator for Terms and Conditions, but more often than not they are not that complicated).

 

The services of a good translator are not cheap (check out this great article to get a basic understanding of how much professional translation services might cost). But this is something that will help you build your community in other countries. This is an investment that will positively impact your bottom line.

 

5 Less is more

 

As a start-up you might not have a big budget. In this case I would consider starting with only one language other than your native tongue, but going all out on it and trying to get everything perfect.

 

If you want to get the success you surely deserve, you’ve got to be on par with the best. If you’re not a native speaker, hire one to guarantee the best quality.

 

6 Brand name checking

 

This is exactly what the name suggests: a professional linguist (he or she must be a native speaker!) checks whether there’re some bad connotations in his or her language connected with the name you have chosen or similar band names, that might get confused with yours.

 

If you’re eventually planning to take over the world, take this step as early as possible preferably before the project launch.

 

Changing the name after you get some followers because it means something bad or not exactly what you want in another language is not good for brand awareness.

 

If you choose an English word (or a combination of them), remember about different variants of the English language. Some words that are perfectly ok in British English might mean something not so innocent in American version of the language or vice versa.

 

Here’s a list of words with different meaning, but I would still recommend to contact a professional who will come up with a neutral and engaging word.

 

Website localization is not easy. But this is something that can make or break your expansion into new markets. Invest your resources wisely and get it right from the very beginning.

 

Please share the post, if you have found it useful. If you want to add some tips or share your experience, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

 

Images courtesy of Kaboompics

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