Sunday, September 11, 2011
So you're going global, and you need your website to follow. Should be a simple case of getting the text translated and you're good to go, right? Probably not. The Google Webmaster Team frequently builds sites that are localized into over 40 languages, so here are some things that we take into account when launching our pages in both other languages and regions.
(Even if you think you might be immune to these issues because you only offer content in English, it could be that non-English language visitors are using tools like Google Translate to view your content in their language. This traffic should show up in your analytics dashboard, so you can get an idea of how many visitors are not viewing your site in the way it's intended.)
More languages != more HTML templates
We can't recommend this enough: reuse the same template for all language versions, and always try to keep the HTML of your template simple.
Keeping the HTML code the same for all languages has its advantages when it comes to maintenance. Hacking around with the HTML code for each language to fix bugs doesn't scale–keep your page code as clean as possible and deal with any styling issues in the CSS. To name just one benefit of clean code: most translation tools will parse out the translatable content strings from the HTML document and that job is made much easier when the HTML is well-structured and valid.
How long is a piece of string?
If your design relies on text playing nicely with fixed-size elements, then translating your text might wreak havoc. For example, your left-hand side navigation text is likely to translate into much longer strings of text in several languages–check out the difference in string lengths between some English and Dutch language navigation for the same content. Be prepared for navigatio