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Translating your WordPress website from single-language to multilingual is the first step to placing your platform on the global marketplace.

In an attempt to get ahead of their competition and tap into new audiences, organisations are increasingly diversifying the languages that their products and services are available in. But to make the translation process effective, organisations have to prepare their website first. Here’s how to lay the foundations for effective translations of your WordPress website.

The opportunities of having a multilingual website in the global marketplace

The opportunity that having a website available in multiple languages presents to e-Commerce businesses and communications platforms cannot be understated. According to Guardian Labs (the branded content agency of The Guardian) only 25% of the internet’s users today use the English language to communicate to one another. A multilingual website will allow you to meaningfully connect with new audiences by promoting your products and services in their language, creating familiar payment methods, and offering effective customer support.

Marketing teams that have primed their website for translation will be able to execute their campaigns for their new audiences quickly and effectively. These teams will also be able to understand which areas are more effectual to translate, as well as how time- and cost-consuming the process is likely to be. Once your posture has changed to this stance, you will be able to more-readily focus on your marketing activities and less on the workflows behind them.

Common mistakes to avoid when building multilingual sites

For most organisations, neither website design or translation are their primary strengths. At Lingo24, we’ve found that many enterprises quite naturally consult us for translation services before their WordPress website is ready to be translated. Not being aware or skipping our recommended plays below can lead to complications in the translation process, and wasted time and money.

Another challenge we often see our customers encountering is suffering from a “bloated” website. A natural side effect of expanding the scope of their website, bolting-on too many additional features to your website can cause dependencies on vendors and require complex coordination to maintain. In our experience, the websites best-prepared for translation use few dependencies and are simplistic under the hood. This ultimately leads to a smaller chance of challenges arising as your translator works on your content.

A third common issue we find is that most organisations have not maintained their site. Freshly launched websites glisten on day one, but your content has a lifespan, as do your plugins. Outdated content that needs to be revised or plugins that need to be updated can undermine the functionality of your site and, again, cause delays in the translation process.

The recipe – How to build multilingual sites that are easy to translate and run

1. Before you start: Get the right people onboard

Like any other professional service, building websites demands particular skill sets and technologies. Engineering a multilingual site, however, is a yet-more specialised field and requires additional expertise.

If you haven’t started your project yet, it’s best to start on the right foot first – with an expert. For example, to offer multilingual website development alongside our other services, Lingo24 has partnered with WPML, the WordPress Multilingual plugin. The WPML organisation maintains a directory of developers with expertise in multilingual website development, who work with large and small companies to prepare websites of all kinds for translation.

The best translators work flexibly, however, and that is why we recommend engaging a professional translation service at whichever stage you are in the website development journey.

2. Build your website with simplicity as a fundamental

As you begin to build your website, different areas of your organisation will likely want to input their ideas and functionalities into it. This can lead you to bolting on extra technologies during the building process, leading to a bloated and vendor-dependent website. Unchecked growth can see you run into difficulty in managing your website, before the translation process has even commenced.

Instead, it’s best to keep things simple. We at Lingo24 recommend picking both a single theme and as few plugins as possible for your website, with these also being translation-ready. It is also crucial to research the full effects that additional features such plugins as have on your WordPress site. For example, some plugins may display text which will also need to be translated.

The best translation providers will distinguish themselves by offering tools which aid in multilingual website creation. For example, WPML also offers their site-building plugins for free and has Toolset, a utility which helps eliminate the chance of inter-vendor dependency-created problems. It is best practice to choose services from the same translation provider, meaning than both the functionality and translation of your WordPress website come from the same company.

3. Prioritise the areas that require translation

When we do consulting at Lingo24, we typically find that customers wish to shape their translations around their “North Star Metrics”. These are specific goals which the customer has in mind depending on the product or service, which shape the translation project. For example, a customer may want to roll out weekly updates per week to their app, which will mean reducing translation turnaround times from three weeks to one.

It is best practice to create a list of pages you need translated as a priority and produce the content on them with care. Lingo24’s partnership with WPML allows our customers to set the translation priority of different pages on their WordPress site, and send them to us for translation all in one batch. This process helps to structure the translation workflow, and this list can be preserved so that more languages can be added to the same pages further down the line (allowing more scope for experimentation).

4. Test your site to make sure that everything works as expected

Before making pages and content live, it is best practice to test the compatibility of the software supporting your website. Your web developer may do this for you, notifying you if any additional configuration or more development work is required – WPML for example offers a free review service for WPML-powered sites. WordPress also allows its users to test updates in a “staging environment” before making them live to see how changes will affect the functionality and look of your website.

During the translation process, the best translators will add in additional workflows to the translation should the need arise. These stages can include Client Review, which allows the customer to review the translated content themselves, for example.

5. Keep WordPress, the theme and all your plugins up-to-date

Once your WordPress site is translated, it must be maintained on a regular basis. WordPress should be actively monitored by a member of your organisation for updates to plugins and other technologies, and all changes should be tested before going live.

It’s important to remember that you have a partnership with your service provider, so don’t be afraid to reach out if further maintenance is required further down the line.

What’s next?

By adhering to these five plays as your build your WordPress website, you will lay the groundwork for easier translations of your products and services.

If you would like to utilise the WPML Plugin, we advise partnering with a translation partner like Lingo24 who can work with you and practically demonstrate its in your environment.

The best translators will treat you as their partner, and will make themselves available to you after your development and translation projects have concluded.