Why a multilingual website isn’t enough to be successful abroad

localised contentThere it is. Your shiny multilingual website which will lead your business to a huge success. You’ve done your research and chosen the right languages, placed the colourful flags on the top of the website and you’re waiting for the great results now. Well, it might well be that no results will appear at all and all the effort will come to nothing. A multilingual website doesn’t guarantee immediate success if one important thing is missing: localisation.

1. Don’t stop at the language level

“Multilingual” sounds good and promising, but the success isn’t based on words only. Your website will need something more than a perfect translation. Take some time to learn about your potential visitors in every target country. How do they communicate? Are they social? Serious? Do they need to know many details and read reviews before they buy a product? What images may appeal to them? How do they read and browse through the online content? Once you have a detailed picture of your target users form every country, you’ll be able to adjust your content and present your business in a more effective way.

2. Forget the flags

Using flags for the language choice is the easiest way to confuse your online visitors. Think about countries where many languages are spoken or about languages that are used in many different regions. Are you still sure your users will know which flag to choose to see the content in their preferred version? Instead of flags, you can create a menu with country or language names displayed in the local language. It may take more space and look less attractive than the colorful flags, but your users will get the clear idea of how the website will be displayed.

3. Modify the content

Providing the same content for all language versions isn’t the best idea. Such a website may not engage your users and will come across as foreign or exported. If you really want to win the heart of visitors around the world, show that you know and understand them. Localise the content to every market and tailor it to the culture and expectations of your users. A good example is a website of Ikea. Some time ago the version localised for Saudi Arabia displayed sliders with a family enjoying a Ramadan meal. The pictures where online only for a short time before, during and after Ramadan, but that was enough to convince the users that the brand knows and cares about their tradition and culture. Thus, modify the text and graphics for every language and target country to make sure that your brand can engage your online visitors and understands their habits, needs and expectations. 


Do you have a multilingual website? What do you think are other methods to effectively engage visitors from every country?

Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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