Redesigns are the ideal time for companies to localize their websites for consumers in other countries. But there are potential pitfalls, such as failing to recognize that translated terms may take up more space, or failing to translate text embedded in images.

Craig Witt, executive vice president, MotionPoint

Craig Witt, executive vice president, global sales and marketing, MotionPoint

Staying relevant in a digital world is a constant exercise in reinvention. Offering a stellar online user experience is a critical part of retailers’ strategy, and frequent website redesigns play a key role in that.

Redesigns are an ideal time for companies to leverage the best-possible technologies and practices to serve their customers and boost on-site engagement. That’s why savvy retailers often use this opportunity to localize their websites for international customers.

Thanks to elegant, money-saving solutions, website localization is now cost-effective and easy to integrate into a website redesign project. And the world-class customer experiences they deliver to global customers often generate previously untapped conversions and revenue.

Translating online text from English to other languages can result in the localized content taking up between 20 percent and 45 percent more space on the screen.

Here are several best practices you can follow as you redesign your site to make implementing website localization even easier and more affordable.


1. Plan for ‘Word Growth’ 

 Translating online text from English to other languages can result in the localized content taking up between 20 percent and 45 percent more space on the screen, depending on the language. This phenomenon is called “word growth”—or in the case of languages such as Chinese, Korean or Japanese where the word count often shrinks, “word contraction.”

This growth can create on-page text misalignments or “break” page templates. Word growth is especially disruptive within smaller user experience elements such as drop-down menus, image captions or buttons.

These design inconsistencies can create a messy, unprofessional look on translated sites which can wreck the customer experience. While responsive website design can mitigate some of the risk, there are other, more efficient ways to tackle the problem.

From the outset, build fully dynamic page templates that allow word wrap in text boxes (rather than word overflow). And if you’re overlaying text on images, be sure to allow enough padding around the text in your JS, CSS and HTML templates to accommodate any length differences in the copy.

When translating content to languages that read right-to-left—like Arabic—don’t forget to customize the formatting on the page to be sure text displays correctly.


2. Externalize Text from Images 

 Many retail sites are rich with imagery and photography, and an immersive customer experience often depends on compelling visuals. But localizing them can be tricky.

Embedding text in flattened image files, such as .jpgs, can make it difficult for less savvy translation vendors’ technologies to detect them. In these cases, the images’ text will remain untranslated, and your international customers will see an amateurish, mixed-language experience. This is inconsistent with your brand, and the visual continuity you’re trying to create.

Some vendors excel at detecting and translating images with embedded text. However, the costs to localize these images across an entire website can become cost-prohibitive.

By externalizing this text from images by using a solution like Scene7/Adobe Dynamic, you can sidestep these challenges and reduce costs. Externalizing text also enables your team to change image files anytime it wishes without the need to re-translate the text or do additional graphics work (saving you time and money).

Separating text from images also makes the text indexable for search engines. This can improve your rankings for important SEO terms and keywords in international organic search results.


3. Code for the Local Audience

Your international customers want to feel like your website was built with them in mind, which means creating and delivering content that captures local flavor and cultural nuances—while also shaping a seamless and optimized experience.

Make it easy for your customers to get your site content in the language they prefer by configuring your site to smartly detect visitors’ locations or language preferences, and instantly present the appropriate localized website. This can boost engagement and time on-site.

Make sure to deliver localized offers, product information or seasonal content tailored to your audiences.

And don’t forget to translate content that’s populated by external sources such as error messages, on-site search results or ecommerce engines. You’ll also want to ensure everything from dates and times to currency, units of measure, payment options and contact information are available to your customers in the languages they prefer.


4. Set Up Systems to Support Multilingual Data 

 If you capture visitor and customer information through contact forms or other on-site mechanisms, be sure your database can support the logging and storage of content in other languages, so your sales and marketing teams can actually use it.

It’s an especially tricky challenge if you’re capturing inputs from dual-byte character languages like Chinese, or non-Latin scripts like Arabic, Japanese or Russian. Forcing users to “Romanize” personal information like names and addresses can be frustrating and make them abandon your site altogether.

5. Find the Right Translation Technology

 Not all translation solutions are created equal, so find one that understands the unique technical and operational complexities of e-retail websites.

The right technology solutions can operate independently of your site so that your translated content is never tied to a specific CMS or coding language. It can easily redesign your site anytime or any reason, and your translated websites will seamlessly adapt without downtime.

Leading technologies also play nicely with any of your third-party shopping cart, product catalog or inventory capabilities and ensure your sites are continuously running before, during and after any redesign.


With a few of these best practices in mind, you can capitalize on your redesign project and build your website to serve customers and communities across the globe.

MotionPoint provides translation services to online retailers.