Should You Have a Multi-Language Website?

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Should You Have a Multi-language Website

Does your business service customers in which English is not their first language? Do you have staff and/or collateral that caters to this demographic? If you've answered yes, you might want to consider updating your website design to include these additional languages.

Let's consider a brick and mortar scenario where you are a customer looking to buy a product or service and you don't speak English very well or even at all. You have two options – one business has English speaking staff, English collateral, and provides no support to your native language. The other business does have staff that speaks your language and additionally provides collateral and support in your language. All other things being equal, which option would you probably choose? Would you possibly pay extra for this convenience? I know from personal experience while traveling abroad that I have paid extra, and probably would in almost every similar situation. A comfortable product or service transaction environment is extremely important to me as a consumer, and I would venture to guess that I'm not the only one that shares this sentiment.

Now, going back to the web-based world for a moment…
If your business already caters to more than one language, think of the additional value added to your site visitor's experience if this same courtesy was extended to them online. The odds of them moving towards a purchase will only increase when making their visit easier and more informative.

The Marketplace
Reflect on your competitors for a moment…do they have multi-language websites? If they don't, imagine the opportunity you have to virtually reach this demographic. By differentiating yourself in this way, it can greatly increase your exposure online, via word of mouth, and through viral marketing as well = "Hey, if you need a good X, there is a company that offers support in our language" (probably not how this would be said verbatim, but you get the point). If your competitors do have a multi-language website and you don't, what type of disadvantage will your business be in when giving this potential customer the same two options as presented above. Which option will they choose?

Having a multi-language website might even be more critical in service-based businesses. The customer trust and website professionalism level typically needs to be higher when purchasing a service as opposed to a product. With a product, the average consumer may consider a few main things – price, quality (based on trust of the manufacturer in most cases), and warranty. However, when hiring a company or individual to perform services there usually needs to be trust established before the sale will occur. This obviously may differ between types of services (doctor vs. carpet cleaner) but it is still applicable nonetheless.

Multi-language e-Commerce
If you currently have an e-commerce website or are considering one in the near future, it too can greatly benefit from having multiple languages. In addition to the previously-mentioned advantages, an e-commerce site has many specific elements that should be considered for translation:
• Navigation
• Product pages
• Shopping cart & checkout language
• Product details
• Currency options
• International shipping calculator

Another thing to think about might be to accept additional payment methods – especially if your non-English speaking customers are outside of the U.S.

Getting it Done
In most cases, developing non-English versions of your website is not a huge undertaking for a Seattle web design company or individual with experience in doing so. There are companies that specialize in this, and can handle both the content translation and website development. However, because this is a niche offering you might pay more to this type of provider.

Another option is to have the translation done as a separate task. You can find multi-lingual individuals to assist or translations companies to take the English site content and produce the same content in the desired language. If you are on a tight budget, you might consider doing the translation work yourself or perhaps assigning the project to your staff member that speaks and writes in both languages fluently. Then as a second step, this produced content can be handed off to an experienced website developer for insertion into your site. One thing to keep in mind is that when dealing with HTML and other website elements, it's usually more complicated than simply a cut and paste operation. So, be sure the service provider is experienced in this type of work before engaging them.

Remember, your website should be much more than an online brochure or business card. The more dynamic and interactive you can make it for your visitors, the more success you will achieve. By catering to the needs of your target market demographic through a multi-language site, you can truly differentiate your business from the competition and add tremendous value to your non-English speaking customers.

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