Translating Content for International Markets

Translating Content for International Markets

Embarking on a global project that requires translation across several markets is a mammoth undertaking.

The content that you produce will be central to your success – so it’s extremely important to get it right.

But with a large number of writers, translators, developers and others working together on the same project, inconsistencies can arise, either due to a lack of clarity or inconsistent communication about your goals.

If this happens, your message will become unclear, your target audience will become unimpressed and you’ll become unlikely to achieve your objectives.

So how do you prevent this?

User experience and website design

Users are now accessing content from a variety of different devices. Smartphones and tablets have become increasingly popular, so you should think about developing mobile websites or using responsive design techniques so that consumers can enjoy consuming your content on the move.

There is nothing worse than trying to use a desktop site on a mobile device. However, research by the Internet Advertising Bureau reveals 60% of brands still do not have a mobile-optimized website. This means content can become inaccessible when accessed through a smartphone or tablet.

This is even more important when producing content for international markets. Smartphone penetration can differ widely depending on the target market. For instance, China has 700 million active smartphone users and over 80% of users access the internet from their mobile device. So, if you want to reach users in China, having a mobile website is critical.

Here are five tips when it comes to creating mobile content:

1) Focus your attention on what users actually need on the move

Figuring out why people on the move visit your mobile site will help you create mobile content that works. Creating content around these key tasks and user journeys should be your primary aim. After all, a large number of pages on your standard site may never make it to the mobile one. Select the content that fits the mobile user journey and get this translated first.

If your website is already receiving traffic from different regions around the world then you can use your website analytics data to determine the type of content users in different regions are looking for and present clear options for accessing this content on your mobile site.

2) Be ruthless when cutting content

More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to mobile sites, so be ruthless in deciding on the content that gets included.

Focus on the benefits of your product or service for users in different markets and remove any puns or wordplay from your source text. This is particularly relevant when it comes to translating text, as puns often do not work in other languages. Emphasize what matters and get the message across in the simplest way possible.

3) Use homepages for navigation only

Forget a welcome message on your mobile homepage. Just present links to various sections of the site that are relevant for mobile users in a given territory. This will allow users to gain access to the information they need more quickly – improving the overall user experience.

4)  Structure your information architecture logically

No one likes to hunt around for content, least of all mobile users, so make sure everything is exactly where it should be.

Create a map of your online content and structure your navigation elements accordingly. Again, use your website analytics data to determine the types of content that users in your target region find most valuable.

5) Don’t rely on a fixed design & use text

The variation in the way sites will display on different types of mobile phone is huge – remember, not everyone uses an iPhone.

One of the biggest mistakes that designers make when designing websites is relying on a fixed-width design. So keep your design elements minimal and fluid and try, where possible, to use text to get your message across.

Using text will also make your website localization easier and cheaper as you can take advantage of translation memory and don’t need to use experienced designers or developers to work on the graphical elements.

In-house documents, style guides, tone docs and content ‘philosophies’

But it’s not just your websites that you need to worry about – offline content can also be a cause for concern.

There are lots of things you can do to ensure consistent messages by developing in-house documentation and implementing a rigid internal content production process.

Listed below are a few examples:

Copy formats

  • These provide you with a way of streamlining the content creation and production process, giving you a clear idea of how your content will look before it’s delivered to various publications or devices.
  • They offer your writers and translators a clear structure to work towards and abide by, meaning you ensure consistency – both now and in the future – when it comes to style, tone and format.
  • In particular, they help many authors deliver large volumes of content and can be extremely useful when work is split across different teams and countries.
  • They also allow for better planning and strategy, meaning you can tailor content formats and content types to specific audiences and business goals.

Style guides and tone documents

  • These ultimately help build consistency internally and make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • They guide your translators and writers by providing a set of standards which they must follow when creating content, therefore eliminating any confusion and guesswork.
  • It’s better to put the effort in and create them now, rather than spend time answering the same questions over and over again.
  • They also mean new recruits and guest contributors are on the same page a lot quicker, while content is consistent in tone, quality, and presentation, giving off a more professional brand experience.

Content philosophy/ethos

  • A message that talks about your objectives is extremely beneficial when it comes to content.
  • Think of this as the Bible, something which all your disciples – translators and writers – abide by.
  • It helps to establish common ground and gives a clear indication of what you want to achieve from your content, avoiding the unwanted prospect of erratic messaging and a disjointed brand experience.
  • Having an ethos means everyone on your team understands the primary focus, which, in turn, will help produce content that speaks to your audience.

If you rely on content as a central part of your marketing strategy, you should therefore develop an editorial style guide before embarking on a global project that requires translation into multiple languages.

Failure to do so can be a recipe for disaster, so put in the time and effort to create a guide that speaks for your brand and helps your staff get on with their jobs.

It can be useful to list examples of the concepts you’re explaining, both good and bad, to hammer the message home.


Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

Related posts