How to Make a Multilingual Website Using Free Tools
It's clear: either your website is multilingual or it fades in obscurity.
And if you are here, you obviously prefer the former and want to learn how to make a multilingual website.
Worry not, we’ve got you covered.
Keep reading to learn:
Pro tip: Integrate a Centus localization suite into your website development process to seamlessly and efficiently appeal to an international audience. Learn more.
A multilingual website, also known as a multilingual site or a multi-language website, is a website that offers content in two or more languages.
Businesses can embrace the multi-language website approach to tap into the immense potential of international markets and go global.
By translating content in more than one language, they effectively communicate with a broader audience, breaking down barriers and connecting better with global customers.
Keep these tips in mind when building a multi-language website:
- Provide a clear navigation system
Provide clear navigation and a language switcher for your website visitors. Make sure the navigation is consistent across the language versions.
- Regularly update multilingual content
Ensure the translated content is consistently updated and maintained to provide users with relevant and reliable information. The easiest way to update content and track changes across language versions is by using content audit tools.
- Test the quality of your website
After you’ve already created your website, localized the text and visual content, added a language switcher, and localized your domain structure, do not forget to go through every point and element to check the text quality and functionality. Is the localized content user-friendly?
Building a multilingual website is a crucial part of a business localization strategy. It’s essential for going global and targeting a diverse audience speaking different languages.
Studies show that 52% of all websites are in English. However, these only reach and cater to the needs of a paltry 25% of all internet users. Building a multilingual website can help you reach more prospects and stay ahead of competitors.
Interestingly, even among those proficient in English, 65% prefer to read content in their local language, making it even more necessary for websites to be multilingual.
In simple terms, people are only willing to buy if they understand your site's content. Whether it’s for marketing materials or product listings, speaking your audience's language is the key to building trust and driving sales.
Now that we understand the significance of localization and its associated benefits, let's see how to build a multilingual website.
Step 1: Choose markets for expansion
Before building a multilingual website, it's important to identify the markets you want to expand to. Here, you may want to consider the following factors:
Demand: Research whether there is a demand for your products or services in the regions you're targeting. Assess market potential, competition, and consumer behavior to ensure a viable opportunity for growth.
Language considerations: Determine the number of languages you can budget for translation and localization. Prioritize these languages based on your target audience and market potential. Always remember to strike a balance between reach and resources.
Read more about global expansion and how to create a market expansion strategy here.
Step 2: Choose a domain strategy
When creating a multilingual website, you have two primary domain strategies: a subdomain or a separate domain. You can have one website domain with other-language linked pages or use separate domains to host the multi-language content versions.
Clear separation: Each subdomain is dedicated to a specific language, simplifying content management and ensuring accurate localization.
SEO benefits: Search engines treat subdomains as separate entities. This increases your multi-language site visibility and search engine rankings in different language markets.
Maintenance: Managing multiple subdomains can be time-consuming and may require additional technical expertise.
Branding: Subdomains may dilute your brand identity, as users must remember different URLs for each language.
Single domain with different languages
In this approach, you use a single domain (e.g., yourwebsite.com) and implement language variations within the site structure. For example, yourwebsite.com/es for Spanish or yourwebsite.com/fr for French.
Simplicity: Managing a single domain is more streamlined and requires less technical maintenance.
Consistent branding: Using the same domain for all multi-language sites helps maintain cohesive brand identity across different markets.
- SEO issues: It is more challenging to optimize a single domain on other search engines for multiple languages. This makes it more difficult to compete in different language markets.
Consider platforms like GoDaddy or Bluehost when choosing a domain hosting provider. They have robust multi-language capabilities and support for both subdomains and single domains. Besides, these platforms provide user-friendly interfaces, customizable templates, and plugins that facilitate website localization.
Step 3: Choose a Content Management System
Choosing a Content Management System (CMS) is crucial for building and managing digital content on your multilingual website.
The commonly used CMSs are WordPress, Wix, Joomla, Webflow, and Shopify. They are self-hosted, open-source CMSs that can serve your multilingual needs on a friendly budget. Let’s look at these CMS in closer detail.
WordPress is a widely used CMS known for its flexibility and extensive plugin ecosystem. It offers various localization plugins that simplify the translation process. Here are some of the notable plugins enabling multilingual WordPress functionality:
WPML (WordPress Multilingual Plugin)
WPML allows you to create multilingual websites easily. It provides features like a language switcher, translation management, and compatibility with popular themes and plugins.
Polylang is another powerful plugin for the creation of bilingual or multilingual websites. It integrates with popular website builders and allows you to assign different languages to your posts, pages, and custom post types.
Wix is user-friendly and one of the popular website builders that also supports multilingual functionality. Use it to easily duplicate and translate your website's pages to create different language versions.
Joomla is a self-hosted and open-source robust CMS that offers multilingual capabilities out of the box. With its built-in language manager, you can create multi-language versions of your website, assign menus and modules, and manage translations efficiently.
Webflow is a modern website design builder and CMS platform that also supports multilingual websites. While it doesn't have native multilingual features, you can utilize Webflow's robust design and customization capabilities to create separate language versions of your site.
Shopify is an ecommerce SaaS platform with advanced multilingual features. By using the platform, you can set up your online store from scratch and customize it to your liking.
Shopify offers advanced payment and business management functionality, making it arguably the simplest way to create an online store.
Step 4: Choose a translation strategy
There are various translation strategies to consider when localizing your website. Here are popular options you may want to begin with:
Machine translation tools
This involves using automated tools, such as Google Translate and ChatGPT, to translate your site's content. While the machine translation tools offer a quick and cost-effective solution, its accuracy and quality may vary.
Carefully review and edit the translated content to ensure accuracy and maintain the intended meaning.
Human translation involves engaging professional translators to translate your multilingual content manually. This approach ensures high-quality, culturally appropriate translations, providing a more personalized experience for your international audience. It may involve higher costs and longer turnaround times than MT, but it guarantees accuracy.
The table below shows the average translation rates per word.
Localization management tools
Using translation management systems (TMS) can significantly streamline the translation and localization process.
One such tool is Centus, a professional localization management suite featuring translation memory, machine translation, project management and cooperation tools, quality assurance checks, APIs, and everything else you need for seamless website translation. Learn more.
Step 5: Create content
Machine translation allows translating your multi language website within the tightest monetary and time constraints. However, you shouldn’t entirely depend on machine translation. Creating website content in every language from scratch is always better. This ensures accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and an engaging user experience for your international audience.
If you're on a budget, a practical approach is to develop your content in English as the main language and then localize it to other languages. English often serves as a universal language, and by creating high-quality content in English, you lay a strong foundation for translation and localization.
Step 6: Translate your content
Once you have developed your content, it's time to translate it into the target languages. Here are a few key considerations:
Consider manual translation
To ensure linguistic accuracy and cultural relevance, it is recommended to engage professional human translators who are native speakers of the primary language. These translators can capture the cultural references specific to each language, providing a more authentic experience for your international visitors.
Another method is automatic translation using translation tools or services. These tools use translation algorithms to automatically translate the content from the default language (often English language) into other languages.
Localize your keywords
Translating keywords is crucial for effective SEO in each language. Literal translations may not capture your target audience's intent or search behavior. Instead, adapt and localize keywords to align with each region's language and cultural nuances.
Collaborate with professional translators who understand the language and SEO principles to optimize your content for better visibility. In addition to translation, consider other localization aspects, such as adapting date format, currencies, and any culturally specific references.
Step 7: Implement automatic language detection
To provide a seamless user experience, consider implementing language detection on your multi-language website. Automatic language detection lets you identify visitors' preferred languages based on their browser settings, IP addresses, or other indicators.
Once the user's language preference is determined, you can redirect them to the appropriate language version of your website. This eliminates the need for manual language selection, thereby driving down the bounce rate.
Several content management systems, such as WordPress, offer built-in translation features and plugins that facilitate automatic language detection.
Step 8: Adapt design and layout
The design and layout are crucial aspects when building a multi language website. You need to ensure a visually appealing and cohesive experience across different languages by doing the following:
Adapting visual content
Visual elements such as images, graphics, and videos are crucial in conveying your message. You need a graphic designer who can ensure that your visual content is culturally appropriate and resonates with your target audience in each language.
Different languages may have varying text lengths, which can affect the layout and design of your multi-language website. Account for potential text expansion or contraction when designing your website, particularly in buttons, menus, and call-to-action elements.
Right-to-left (RTL) languages
If your target languages include RTL scripts such as Arabic or Hebrew, ensure your website's layout supports RTL text orientation. Adjust navigation menus, content alignment, and overall flow to accommodate RTL languages and maintain readability.
Step 9: Add a language selector
To facilitate intuitive language selection for your multi-language site visitors, provide a clear navigation menu in the header that facilitates easy language switching. Here are a few key considerations and best practices for having a multilingual dashboard:
Provide clear language labels
Use clear and concise language labels to represent default language and other options in the navigation menu. Utilize the appropriate language names or language flags for easy recognition.
Implement a dropdown menu or a language switcher in the header that provides a list of available languages. This allows your multi-language site visitors to select their preferred languages quickly.
Position the language navigation menu prominently in the header, ensuring it is easily visible and accessible across all web pages. Users should be able to take advantage of the language switcher to switch different languages seamlessly from the web pages they visit.
Adding a language switcher drop-down menu to your website's header makes it convenient for visitors to find and switch to the language they need, enhancing the user experience and promoting engagement.
Step 10: Conduct quality assurance testing
During the testing phase, it is necessary to thoroughly examine the website's language switch functionality. Make sure all content, including menus, buttons, and forms, is accurately translated and displayed.
We gathered the ultimate list of tools to help you quality test your multilingual website. Read on to find out.
Automation testing frameworks like Selenium and Cypress will help you automatically test a language-switching functionality and content consistency across different languages.
Cross-browser testing tools like BrowserStack and Sauce Labs ensure compatibility across various browsers and platforms.
Additionally, localization-specific tools like Xbench and Multilizer will help validate the correct rendering of special characters, date formats, and language-specific features.
Utilizing these tools empowers organizations to deliver a flawless multilingual experience and effectively cater to a global audience.
Creating a multilingual website is necessary for businesses to expand their global reach and engage with diverse audiences. By localizing your website content and providing language options for your visitors, you can unlock a multitude of benefits, such as:
Access to global markets
Translating your website into multiple languages will help you to target and acquire customers in different countries effectively. This opens up multiple growth opportunities and allows you to connect with potential customers who prefer to browse and shop in their native languages.
Enhanced user experience
A multilingual website demonstrates your commitment to inclusivity and user convenience. Visitors are likely to engage with a website that speaks their language, providing a personalized experience that builds trust and fosters stronger connections.
Credibility is crucial in international markets, and offering content in multiple languages signals professionalism and integrity. It shows that you value your international audience and are dedicated to providing relevant, accessible information, products, or services.
Improved SEO and organic visibility
Creating language-specific versions of your website allows you to optimize your content for relevant keywords in each preferred language. This helps improve your search engine rankings in different regions, making it easier for international users to find your website and boosting your organic visibility.
Building a multi-language website sets you apart from competitors who are yet to venture into the global market. It allows you to establish a strong presence in different regions, gain a competitive edge, and position your brand as a trusted choice for customers worldwide.
Remember, creating a multi-language website is an investment that can yield substantial returns by expanding your customer base and increasing conversions. So, why limit yourself to one language when the global market is ripe for taking?
To illustrate the power and effectiveness of multi-language websites, let's take a look at the inspiring examples from the most prominent companies in their respective industries:
As a global online marketplace for lodging and experiences, Airbnb understands the importance of catering to international travelers. They have a multi-language website that allows users from various countries to explore and book accommodations seamlessly.
The renowned sportswear brand, Nike, has successfully implemented a multi-language website approach to reach its global audience. It has one of the best multilingual sites that adapt the content and product information to specific regions.
This has made it easier for their customers to engage with the brand in their preferred languages, increasing Nike’s overall global influence.
The WordPress multi language website is self-hosted and open source, providing an easy option to create a multilanguage website with a WordPress theme. It’s localized and translated into virtually every popular language to serve a vast global community.
The WordPress multi language site also suggests a language on the homepage depending on your region to help guide visitors toward the right spot.
These examples showcase how prominent brands leverage the power of multilingual websites to connect with international audiences, provide personalized experiences, and drive engagement and sales.
To Sum Up
When building your multilingual website, follow our step-by-step guide to simplify the process and avoid common pitfalls. Whether you opt for a multi language Wordpress website or choose other website builders make sure to tailor your content to your target audience's needs and preferences.
How do I make my Wix site multilingual?
To make your Wix site multilingual, install the Wix Multilingual app from your Editor or the App Market, configure language settings, and translate your content using the app's interface.
How can I make a multilingual website for free?
Choose a website builder like WordPress, Wix, or Weebly that offers multilingual capabilities. Install a translation plugin, configure language settings, and manually translate your own website content into various languages.
How to build a multilingual website using pure HTML?
Building a multi-language website using pure HTML requires creating separate HTML files for each language and linking them using language-specific URLs or navigation. Translate the content within each HTML file and provide language switchers for users to switch between languages.