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July 13, 2011

Website Translation Strategy You Need to Know

The basics of website translation have been covered in numerous articles around the internet. What you won’t find is real information about the nitty-gritty of website translation. The boring, technical details that are never covered. The following strategies are often overlooked,
but are critical for your international success.

The following outline on website translation and localization strategy will briefly introduce you to some of the more important, and often overlooked, areas that will save you considerable time and money before you begin. Your nitty-gritty plan will include:

* A good, clean file and server management strategy.

* A very flexible site design.

* A far-sighted data management plan.

* A well defined roadmap including milestones and budgets.

The first critical step to a successful technical strategy is to review and clean up your file and server management. Having access to your original site files and not just the served files is a must. You cannot make the necessary improvements and changes through a browser.

Take the time to clean up your file naming conventions, file structure, and hosting environments. Create a system that allows for multiple versions of the site to co-exist (the translated versions) and allows for easy management of all the files. Make sure that this file system is able to grow and accommodate the number of future sites you anticipate. Better organization will greatly reward you later on in the process. Think of it this way, for each language, your file count will at least double. The possibility for error increases exponentially.

Creating a long term plan for the hosting and serving of your websites is another important strategical element. For most businesses it is adequate to host your foreign sites alongside your current source site. As your international business grows your need for local hosting will also grow. Your search engine ranking will also be affected by these choices.

Once your server file management is organized, the next investment is to review your site design for localization issues. Translated text will either shrink or grow by as much as 30% depending on the target language. Determine if your graphics are going to need to be re-sized or converted into a different format; preferably text links. Look at dynamic content served on your site.

Is your design going break when the translated text is served? What if one of your target languages is Arabic or Asian? Is your site design able to display right to left text?

Speaking of dynamic content, do you have a plan for your dynamic content to be translated. This includes external data sources such as news and blog feeds as well as internal data sources. If your site uses data tables, it is critical to have a strategy to manage the data within the tables. Similar to your server file management, your data tables will get unmanageable as you add additional languages if you do not have a good data strategy.

Included within certain data strategies are content management systems. Many different systems exist, but each handles multiple languages differently. Spend the time to research the best solution for your particular company needs.

What sort of global gateway are you going to serve your website though? Easy navigation for your foreign visitors is the first impression you are going to provide and will often times become a critical factor in your success. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Many different options are available to direct your visitors to the translated versions of your site. You will have to choose the best one that fits within the needs of your site.

Finally, you will need to define your success milestones. Before you move forward into that actual process of translating and localizing your website, you should have a budget and timeline defined. After mapping out your international and technical strategies, a project budget and timeline should fall naturally into place. Knowing how much you are going to spend and for what, and how long it is going to take are critical questions you must be able to answer.

Succeeding in international business is extremely rewarding as long as you have the proper processes to guide you. Many different resources are available on the Internet. Search around or ask your language provider to help you write your localization strategy. Taking the time to think this through will give you the foundation necessary to make the most of your international efforts.

In subsequent articles we will begin to put the project together and begin the actual translation processes.

Russell Lundstrom is an expert in international business and website translation. He has been helping companies succeed overseas for more than twenty years. You can learn how to grow your own business internationally by joining the community at and by following Russell on Twitter @gssguy.