Websites – what to translate and what not to translate

We know that managers, website owners and globalization teams need to justify constantly their budgets to their directors. More often than not, we hear arguments against translating websites or product information, such as “A lot of people understand English, so we don’t really need to translate that.” A survey by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. estimated that a billion people around the world are studying English and a few hundred million speak it natively. The survey also indicated that over half do not comprehend English well enough to navigate successfully through a website.

Time and budget constrains are the typical reasons why many companies do not localize their websites into local languages. From the survey, it was also evident substantial drop-offs in browsing, consideration, and purchasing that tracked directly to respondents’ ability to read English. Their desire to buy correlates directly to that ability.

When considering translating or not your website, I think a key aspect is to visualise your potential customer experience and go through the motions. Your site in English will probably turn off people who don’t read the language. Some may feel disrespected and leave on principle. People want to products or services with information on specifications that they can read; without it, they wouldn’t be able to assess the inherent value or functionality of your product. And post-sales support is just as important. Imagine your customers trying to deal with your technical support in a language not their own. Not that you need to have call centers for each target markets, but translating some portion of your online help, frequently asked questions, and knowledge bases can help.

The right Language Partner will work with you to identify and establish the priorities and scope of your translation needs.