Website Localization Best Practices

by Julia Litvin

We are continuing the series of reports about our full digital audit of the first 1000 company websites from the Forbes Global 2000 list, in case you missed our introduction part you can catch it up easily.


This guide is a collection of best practices and tips for multilingual and multi-regional websites, including URL formats, language selection, country selection, and global branding considerations.


Guide Navigation Plan:


Translation

  • Your Key marketing content should be professionally translated and/or transcreated. Translate as much of your key marketing materials as possible.
  • Machine translation can be appropriate, for non-marketing related texts, high volume texts or for content requiring rapid turnaround time.
  • Take advantage of Translation memory to reduce translation cost over time and to stay consistent with your translations.

IBM | French website | www.ibm.com/fr-fr

IBM-french-website-version.png


Global Gateway

  • Provide a global gateway to let users choose the preferred country.

McDonald's | International website | corporate.mcdonalds.com/mcd/country/map | Global Gateway

McDonald's-global-gateway.png

  • Use the English version of country names together with their native translation. 

Example: Germany | Deutschland

H&M | www.hm.com/entrance | Global Gateway

H&M-global-gateway.png


Language Selection

  • Use a globe icon to indicate language options

E.ON | www.eon.com/en | Language Selection Trigger

E.ON-language-selection-trigger.png

Ford Motor | www.ford.com | Language Selection Trigger

Ford-language-selection-trigger.png

Saudi Telecom | www.stc.com.sa | Language Selection Trigger

Saudi-Telecom-language-selection-trigger.png

  • Place the trigger in the main navigation of all pages. The best place is the top right or top left corner.
  • Use the translated versions of language names to put inside the selection. 

Example: Spanish | Espagnol

  • For the language trigger, when using a Language short-code follow ISO 639-1

Example: EN for English or DE for German

Nokia |www.nokia.com/en_int/choose-your-language | Language Selection



Country Selection

  • Use a globe icon or a country flag to show where a country switcher or country selection trigger is located.

Toyota Motor | www.toyota.co.jp  | Country Selection Trigger

TOYOTA-country-selection-trigger.png

Syngenta | www.syngenta.com | Country Selection Trigger

Syngenta-country-selection-trigger.png

Marks & Spencer | www.marksandspencer.com | Country Selection Trigger

  Marks&Spencer-country-selection-trigger.png

Cigna | www.cigna.com | Country Selection Trigger

   Cigna-country-selection-trigger.png

Starbucks | www.starbucks.com | Country Selection Trigger

Starbucks-country-selection-trigger.png

  • Place the trigger in the main navigation. The best place is the top right or top left corner.
  • Use translated versions of country names to put inside the selection. 

Example: Italy | Italia or Austria | Österreich

Starbucks | www.starbucks.com/site-selector | Country Selection

Starbucks-country-selection.png


Redirection

  • Instead of automatically redirecting a user, it's recommended to suggest the best available language or country option based on the user's language settings in the browser or operating system.

Example: “You have landed on our US site from a UK location, would you like to go to the UK site or stay on the US site?

Adobe Systems | www.adobe.com

Adobe-language-negotiation.png


URL Format

  • Acceptable URL formats include:

     - ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain)  

Example: amazon.com / amazon.in / amazon.es      

     - gTLD (generic Top Level Domain) with Subdomain or Subfolder 

Example with subdomain: de-de.facebook.com 

Example with subfolder: skype.com/en 

Microsoft | US website |www.microsoft.com/en-us

Microsoft-us-website-version.png

  • Use ISO codes in the subfolder or subdomain to indicate language (ISO 639) or country (ISO 3166).

Example: en-us for English in the USA or ja-jp for Japanese in Japan

Microsoft | Japanese website | www.microsoft.com/ja-jp

Microsoft-japanese-website-version.png


Social Media

  • Place icons/links to your official social media accounts on your website.
  • The best location for icons is in the footer or in the top left of the header.

Starbucks | US website | www.starbucks.com | Social Media Icons

Starbucks-us-website-version-social-media-icons.png

  • Localize social media accounts for the countries you operate in.

McDonald's | International | corporate.mcdonalds.com/mcd/country/map | Localized Social Media

McDonald's-localized-social-media.png

  • Create accounts in local social media such as  Weibo in China or VK in Russia. Not all countries are using Twitter and Facebook.

PayPal | Chinese website | www.paypal.com/c2 | Local Social Media

PayPal-chinese-website-version-local-social-media.png


International Access

  • Make sure your website can be accessed from outside of the US, unless you have specific reasons to block certain countries.

Costco Wholesale | US website | www.costco.com


Brand Consistency/Design

  • Follow a global design template for best brand consistency.

Volvo Group | Russian & Chinese websites | volvogroup.ru & volvogroup.com.cn | Global Design Template

Lenovo Group | Polish & Japanese websites | lenovo.com/pl & lenovo.com/jpGlobal Design Template

Your website’s versions should not be drastically different across regions. You can localize images, even use different company names and slogans, as long as your main brand assets such as color, logo, typography etc. are used.

If the global brand uses the same logo, key colors, and other branding elements, then the translation and transliteration are perceived as retention of the global brand name.

Example: Chinese version of the Coca-Cola’s logo contains the company’s name translated and adapted for the Chinese audience.

Coca-Cola in Chinese means “bite the wax tadpole”. But an adapted version called 可口可乐 (kě kǒu kě lè), what translated as “can be tasty, can be happy”. It sounds quite similar to Coca-Cola, at the same time giving to the brand a happy essence.

Coca-Cola | Chinese website | www.icoke.cn | Consistent logo with translated brand name

McDonald’s | Chinese website | www.mcdonalds.com.cn | Consistent logo with translated brand name



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