25. Mar 2012 06:03
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Multilingual Website

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It's definitely just the first shot now, but you're looking at the U.K. version of our Kammerath Network which previously only existed as a German version for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Surely I'm not writing this article just because I'd like to tell you exactly that.

They way to this version was neither an easy nor a fast one and this is what I'd like to talk about. It was our first step on our way to go international and maybe further editions will follow.

The question is should we just translate all the German articles professionally or just write entirely new articles? Let's take a look into the different approaches and why we abandoned or selected them.

Going multilingual by just translating the native website

Just translating existing content is by far the easiest way and could even be done by a machine. Microsoft for example provides automatic translations of MSDN, but also informs visitors that this was done by a machine. Sometimes translations of websites come out really scary depending on what language you translate from or to. No doubt professional websites need good translators or even native speakers or even better: citizens of that country and also live its culture.

The disadvantage of just translating is that some articles are just irrelevant for certain countries. Our German website for example covers a lot of networking topics on EuroDOCSIS 3.0 as this - beside ADSL - is the most common network connectivity, but the interested audience in Britain is not that large as in the German speaking markets. Both Switzerland, Austria and Germany have large scale TV cable-networks with speeds around 100 mbps while in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland different types of ADSL or the most common network technologies. Translating these articles doesn't hurt, but it might be a waste of time as the audience is too small and monetization wouldn't be possible.

Doing things entirely different to the native website

It's common for bigger companies and most corporations to run entirely different websites for certain markets or at least have teams in these regions. This often makes sense if the market is entirely different like in China or Russia. This also makes sense if the way websites are developed in these countries are different such as in Israel where they write from right ot left and all their layouts are aligned from right to left.

The problem with international sites that start from scratch is that you either invest in something that you might already have or you end up doing it wrong by just copying parts into the new site you shouldn't have copied. If you have a russian site for example it might be helpful to also add the VKontakte like button beside the Facebook-one. It might also make sense to optimize and advertise on yandex instead of Google.

Conclusion about multilingual websites

Language barriers are still the number one issue in our globalized world. They prevent communication between two parties and at the bottom line they also prevent doing business with each other. While in the U.S. and Canada this might not be such a big deal as a large number of english speaking people live there many companies still tend to translate their websites to spanish. In the EU the problem is far bigger as so many different language exists and don't be out by thinking most of the people speak english - they don't. Even the two large industrial countries like Germany and France have a huge underdevelopment of the english skills the people have. As it might be sufficient for asking for the right direction it mostly isn't for a driving license test or a mobile phone subscription contract.

We decided to go international by using our existing Kammerath Network Website System, but extending it in a way that allows us to customize each different version that it uniquely fits the language, the culture and the country. We decided to create a british version instead of an international one as we'll focus on Britain and not the whole world.

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