Clients often ask us what their options are for translating their websites. While many translation options exist, not all are created equal, and an approach that works for one organization may not be the best solution for another. When thinking about translation options, it’s important to consider not only the one-time challenge of translating content but also the work required to keep all of your content up to date. In this post, we will briefly explore three great options for creating a multilingual website: Microsites, Localization, and Machine Translation.
There are many plugin options for WordPress that are designed to help you build a multilingual website. One such plugin we have used for clients in the past, WPML (WordPress Multilingual) is one of the more popular options currently on the marketplace. WPML and other plugins like it allow users to create alternate versions of pages in different languages. These plugins call pages in a specific language based on browser preference, or through an optional language switcher. Solutions like WPML will be more work up front due to having to manually translate your content, but give you greater control over the quality of translation, offering a more professional appearance than the google translate route.
- Determines language by browser preference or optional language switcher
- More control over the quality of translation
- Can translate custom post types, widgets, nav menus, and more
- Requires manual translation
- Can be hard to manage with a lot of pages and multiple languages
A more robust translation route, creating a geo-targeted microsite gives you an incredible amount of control, but also requires more work. The idea behind this approach is that users will see a tailored version of your site in their regional language, depending on where they connect from. This option gives you the most control over how information and content are presented to each group and can be a great solution for organizations with global reach and a local presence.
- Provide a unique experience for each language/region
- Provide targeted content rather than just translated content
- Requires manual translation
- Is the most expensive option, as you are building out completely new pages
If you don’t have the time or resources for manual translation, machine translation using a tool like Google Translate is often the best solution. With the click of a button, this easy to use tool allows your users to automatically translate your web pages into their chosen language. While you have less control over the accuracy of translations, especially when it comes to nuances or slang terms, this tool is getting better every year and is a great budget-conscious option.
- Easy to set up
- Easy for users to swap between languages
- Doesn’t require manual translation
- Less accurate translations
- Less professional appearance
- Doesn’t allow for customization of the text
The translation option you choose should be entirely dictated by the needs of your organization, your budget, and your audience. Do you have access to a translator, or the budget to hire one? A manual translation plugin like WPML may be perfect for you. Do you want to create a unique experience that speaks to each region you operate in? Localization may be the best way to serve each of your audiences. Do you simply want to offer your website in a multitude of languages? Google Translate may be your best bet.
No matter which translation method you choose, your users will appreciate the extra effort you put in to make your website more accessible. If you’d like to explore any of these options for your own site, please don’t hesitate to reach out — we’d love to help you figure out and implement the best solution for your organization and audience.