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5 Tips For Planning Your Next Multilingual Website

2014.03.17 by 

5 Tips For Planning Your Next Multilingual Website

In an increasingly more global world, with constantly improving internet connectivity, even in remote regions, multilingual websites are becoming ever more important. For German websites, the first step usually involves creating an English version. Translating the content from German into English may be central to this, but there are some things you should note even while your multilingual website is still in the planning stages. These five tips will help you in drawing up a draft for a multilingual web project.


While translating a website into another language, the length of the text also changes. While we say “Anmelden” or “Anmeldung” in German, on an English website, you have the shorter word, “Login”, and on a Japanese page, the translation ログイン (pronounced: roguin) is written in broad characters. Depending on how the website's navigation should look, it can then suddenly be a tight squeeze.

If the exact wording for the navigation items is not yet specified, it is advisable to plan generously and flexibly, so that the navigation adapts to all languages. Thus, it is also easier to add an additional language at a later date.


It is advisable to define one language version as the standard language. This particularly applies to websites that are accessed through the same domain, e.g. example.com/de and example.com/en. If the visitor wants a language different from the standard language, he can directly select another through the language selection menu.

Automatically assigning the language based on location is another possibility. Thus, a visitor from Germany lands directly on the German version of the page. A visitor from France lands on the English version, if there is none in French.

In each case, it is important for the language selection menu to be seen immediately as one enters the website. Therefore, it is not advisable to hide it in the footer, where the visitor would have to search for it.

If the website is also optimized for phones and tablets via responsive design, both the language selection menu and the navigation itself should be adapted for display and operation on small screens. You can find more information about the various possibilities for navigation in responsive web design here.


In order to be able to use the same pictures in various language versions, it is important to pay attention to the language within the pictures. It is not advisable to embed text in pictures either way, since it is not visible to search engines. If text is unavoidable in a picture, e.g. as a preview of an app, you should also decide on a standard language, which most of the visitors understand. Tip: You can adapt the ALT description to suit the new language.


Red symbolizes love, black symbolizes mourning, in China white is associated with mourning - every culture links colors to various emotions. The cultural differences between our understanding of colors are less pronounced within Europe or in comparison with the United States. Nevertheless, it is helpful to be informed or even to carry out A/B tests, in order to find out why the response to a particular color scheme is different from the expected.


Everyone of us has already received spam emails with laughable, automatically generated translations, which only bring a little laughter to your day in the best of cases. Even though the quality of these automatic translations is increasing steadily, it is not advisable to use them for translating your website. Apart from correctly transferring the content into another language, adapting it to a suitable style is what sets a good translation apart. Although it may be suitable to address a German visitor using "Du" and a more casual tone, for the same content e.g. in Japanese, it may be advisable to use a more formal style.

While searching for a suitable translation, it is thus important to choose a translation service, which covers the desired subject area and allows only mother-tongue speakers of the target language to prepare translations.


smooster offers multilingualism as an extended service. Independent of the characters, websites can be converted and edited in all languages. You can find more information on multilingualism in our features overview. The CMS can be operated flexibly in German or English. You can change your language anytime. In order to make adding new content to multilingual sites easier, you can clone (copy) folders using smooster. During cloning, all pages, including the links between each other, are copied and adjusted intelligently. Thus, you can duplicate the existing folder example.com/de with all subpages as folder example.com/en.

The link between example.com/de/index and example.com/de/point1 is thus adopted and adjusted automatically, so that the link between example.com/en/index and example.com/en/point1 arises from it.

After cloning you only have to replace the text and you have thus saved yourself the stress of having to set up each subpage afresh.

What have your experiences with multilingual web projects been like? What do you do differently from when you are handling monolingual websites?


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