Many companies ask us if they need to translate the content of their business website into other languages. Whether you serve customers around the world, or live in a multi-language area, it's important to address the needs of your website users, including language translation.
The good news is that language translation on websites has evolved and it's much easier to find the right answer for your company.
What's the answer? Like many things in web development, it depends. So keep reading...
A Brief History of Website Translation
In the 1990s, when websites needed multiple languages, developers had to manually create pages for each translation. Automated translation became popular in the 2000s.
Babelfish was the first well-known translation widget that could be added to a website for automatic translation. Google launched its own widget in 2006, and it quickly became the most popular option until 2019. That year, Google discontinued the widget after upgrading its Google Chrome web browser, which now enables translation for any site.
Today, website translation can be separated into two main categories: automated and manual.
Manual Options for Website Language Translator
Some companies may want to do it the old-fashioned way: create multiple versions of a blog article each with a variant for each language.
This offers a direct translation for each blog post and provides a separate page for SEO purposes to get to those articles.
The benefit is that you have complete control of the content. However, it requires more work to set up and manage, since someone needs to write the content in each language.
An LRS division, Enterprise Output Management, chose this route, favoring the control that manual translation gives. They translate their English blog posts into four different languages.
Automated Options for Website Language Translator
If you are considering automated language translation of your website content, there are a few things to keep in mind. While it used to be common to see sites using Google Translate (a language selection box on the website), Google discontinued this service in 2019.
Language translation is now built into the web browser (Chrome and Edge) and third parties, including Google, provide an extension for FireFox. The browser already detects when you are visiting a site in a different language and offers to translate it for you. So if you are looking for a direct replacement for Google Translate, the good news is that you may not need to do anything at all.
Be careful with fully-automated translation. It may not be completely accurate. For better results, make sure the content on your site is consistent, in plain words, and not culture specific. When translated, some content becomes considerably longer, so the design of your site should reflect that.
For better results, make sure the content on your site is consistent, in plain words, and not culture specific.
LRS can help with content and design to improve translation. For more flexibility with automated content, we recommend adding a service like Weglot. This solution allows you editing control of the translated content and provides features such as image replacement and SEO benefits.
AI for Automatic Translation
One of the challenges with automated translation is understanding the difference when words have multiple meanings or when one language does not directly translate certain concepts to another.
Understanding context is important, and this is why manual translation has been the most accurate.
AI is changing that. It can better understand what the site is about using that context to aid in better translations. Automated translation tools are beginning to use AI to better translate content. Stay tuned to see how AI can improve automatic translation context.
Which one is right for your business?
So do you need to translate your website's language? The short answer is no - user's browsers can do it automatically. However, If you want full control over the translation, you can invest time into manually translating the site.
Today's tech -- including AI --makes it easier than ever to meet the language demands of your users.
LRS Web Solutions offers both manual and automated options, and we work with clients to find the best solution for their needs. If you're looking for help with website translation, send us a note and we'll get in touch.