Translation and User Experience

When it comes to websites, translation isn’t just about providing information. It’s also – crucially – about user experience.

The web is basically a roadworks team. In the last 20 years, potholed beaten tracks have been renovated into information ultra-highways, smoother and speedier than most people even appreciate. We zip ideas along these tailor-made arteries and they come back at us just as quickly; standing on the central reservation is a fairly dizzying experience. Imagine being in one of those hundreds of millions of vehicles, watching the scenery whizz by with equal measures of pace and sleekness, when you hit a speed bump and are jolted unceremoniously from your serenity.

Those bumps and bounces used to be par for the course, and very much part of the landscape, but innovations in technology mean that now even the smallest stumbles feel incredibly jarring.

Language is the most frequent of all these speed bumps. It’s been said that the web has removed barriers to global trade – and, in theory, that’s true. But if you’re not speaking to people on their own level, in a web where the English language no longer has a stranglehold, they’re very likely to click elsewhere.

So how far should you go? Well, put bluntly, a full localisation is the most effective way of maintaining the immersion of your customer and ensuring their buying process remains unhindered by stumbling blocks. But there can be obvious challenges with diving straight in at the deep end: budget and a lack of research are a couple of the most popular reasons for caution.

In those situations, the best way of approaching the issue in a measured and calculated way is to translate the very first page that your international customers are likely to see. That usually means localising your homepage, but it can occasionally apply to a more targeted landing page.

By easing your international customers into an English-language environment, you achieve a few things. Firstly, you prove to your audience that you’re thinking about them. Secondly, you’re transparent about your user experience. And thirdly, you get to test the potential in foreign online markets without committing to a full strategy.

If you want to make waves further from home, localisation is an absolutely fundamental investment. If we return to the analogy of an information ultra-highway, the alternative is one heck of a pile-up.