The Do’s and Don’t’s of Translating Your Online Store

A note from the Transifex Team: Today we’re happy to have our friends at TextMaster share some useful tips on how to optimize localized websites. Check out their blog for more great ideas and a few guest posts from us!

The beauty of online stores is that you can reach customers around the world without opening up shop in a new location. Many storeowners think that they can just run their site through Google Translate and new customers will be rushing to their (virtual) door. They then feel confused when the weeks go by without a single international sale.

To avoid this kind of frustration, we’re going to show you the right way to translate your online store, with examples of mistakes to steer clear of.

Mistake 1: Using automatic translation tools

This is the number one mistakes that business owners make when trying to translate their online store or even their corporate website. While Google has been improving its machine translation tools, they still have a long way to go, especially for more complex languages.

We always recommend human translation because not only can translators write in the style and tone that you want, but they can also see the context of the text. This is most important for expressions and ambiguous words that may completely change the meaning your of sentence. For example, if your product description for shoes says that they are “to die for”, this may not translate well into other languages; your customers will be wondering why you’re talking about shoes and death. A human translator can replace this with the equivalent phrase that will resonate with your local audience.

Mistake 2: Missing translations

You put effort into your online store – the content, the design, the user experience – so that when visitors come to your store, they’ll be persuaded to buy something. So why wouldn’t you make every language version of your site as effective as the original? When you translate only a few pages (like the product descriptions) and ignore others (like Customer Service), you’re giving your visitors one more reason to abandon their shopping carts.

It’s important to translate everything, from the most obvious – home page, product descriptions – to less obvious, like menus, footers, and text in images. When you make your online store available in your customer’s language, you’re not only making it easier for them to navigate and get the information you want, but you’re also building a strong sense of trust, which is still crucial for online businesses.

Mistake 3: Not keeping your store up to date

You’ve translated your store; great! Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can just forget about it now. Translation is an ongoing process because your store is always changing. Did you add new products? Is there a promotion on your home page? Did you shipping policies change? When you make any additions or changes to your online store, it’s important to update it in the other languages so that your visitors receive the latest information.

Mistake 4: Forgetting to check the layout

The English language is fairly short compared to others like German or French. Your website layout may look perfect in English, but don’t assume that this will be the case when you import your translations. The most important elements to check are your navigation menus, titles, buttons and forms. The text may be cut off or spill over onto other section of your pages. This is another situation where your human translator will come in handy. They can offer shorter synonyms or reword your sentences to fit into your desired layout. As with point #3, it’s important to keep checking the layout of your website whenever you add new products, promotions, etc.

Going beyond translation

We want to leave you with a final thought – the goal of translating your online store is to make a connection with your target audience in a new region. While translating your website into the local language is essential, to be truly local, you need to take into account your customer’s culture and preferences. Regional holidays, currencies, expressions and buying behavior are all important elements to integrate into your multilingual online store.

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