From my experience managing this type of project here are my top tips:
1. Build your website in only one language first.
I would recommend even launching the website and having it live a couple of months before you decide to launch a second language. The reason behind this is that you can:
- Launch faster: As you are only working in one language, if you work in more than one, your double/triple/cuadruple the workload, depending on how many languages you work in.
- Get user feedback: As much as we try to get the website exactly right prior to launch, there is nothing like actually launching the site and seeing how it performs in a live environment.
Once you are happy with the site in your main language, then proceed to translate into additional launguages.
2. Choose your second language carefully.
You know your business better than anyone, you might choose a language that you want to start targeting or one that is already using your services and that you would like to serve better by presenting the site in their prefered language. If the latter is the case, look at your analytics data to help you choose.
I would also strongly recommend choosing a language that you, or someone on your staff, speaks in order to keep the second language content up to date.
3. Make sure there is a process in place to actually get the translations done.
When choosing a partner to help you translate the website or if you are doing it all yourself, here are the main things to ask about / consider:
Firstly, how will you get all the text out of the website in order to translate it? Idealy your content management system will allow you to export all the text from your website into a format like excell so that you can pass it to your prefered translator, logically, if you can export all the text there should be a mechanism for you to import all the new translated text.
Otherwise it could turn out to be quite a manual process, copy pasting from each pag on the website - don’t forget to translate the SEO data too, page titles, descriptions, image alt tags, etc.
Alternatively your translator could work directly within your content management system.
Ether way, it is important that a native speaker have a look at the site in the new language before it goes live. This is to make sure that it all makes sense in context.
You will find that certain words/phrases are longer of shorter in the new language, you may need to make some layout adjustments to the site to make it all fit nicely, so allow time and budget from this in your schedule.
4. Make sure the language switcher works correctly
The language switcher is the user interface that allows you to switch from one language to another - usually a set of little flags or the name of the language.
The site should automatically open in the language that the user has specified as their prefered language in their browser settings, but if they want to view the site in another language, they will need a way to switch between them.
Wherever possible make sure that you can reach the equivalent page in the alternative language when you click onthe language “Flag”. It would be very user un-friendly if every time they switch language it takes them back to the home page of the site.
5. Do lanague specific SEO
You should go futher than simply translating the data that is important for SEO (page titles, descriptions, image alt tags, etc) You should develop an SEO strategy specifically for that language, targeting language specific keywords.
Work together with your SEO specialist/team to make sure this is done correctly.
If you follow the above tips it should help you avoid some of the main pitfalls in a process that seems like it should be streight forward, but can in fact end up disastrous and time consuming if not managed properly.