Time has proved that English is a dominant language on the Internet; however, things are rapidly changing with billions of individuals preferring websites in their own spoken languages. Research has proved this fact about liking of regional languages for building websites. Figures also suggest that with this increasing need for multilingual websites, it is always better for the regional players to build websites in their local languages.
Being in the web development domain for several years, I have understood the importance of multilingual website development and hence, have learned the techniques and become proficient is this regards. However, there are many who need to understand this multilingual prominence and stay in sync with changing times. I am sharing some important and useful tips here for starting out as multilingual developers of websites.
Use of TLDs (Top Level Domain)
The domain being the foremost aspect of websites, you will need individual TLDs per language for infiltrating foreign regions properly. This will also lead to boosting the site credibility along with ranking your website high on regional search engines.
Try as far as possible to host every TLD on regional servers, as this too helps in accentuating search rankings.
There are various elements that you need to consider while engaging in multilingual web design and overall navigation along with page structures. My experience suggests that the use of frameworks that are consistent for branding and are recognized locally world over are best. Such frameworks are flexible for changing languages and preferences of design for every market. I always make it a point to research about competitor websites from every market, as this aids in understanding the likes in regards to content and design for different cultures.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
I always keep the content aloof from the design with the use of CSS. This will prove beneficial if the need for switching content from one site to the other arises.
Choice of color
When you consider multilingual website development, the color connotations for different cultures needs to be considered. Different regions have varied color preferences. This makes it imperative that you choose colors that suit different cultures.
It is always preferable to use Times New Roman, Verdana or Arial fonts for whichever market you intend to target. These are universally accepted fonts.
You need to ensure that your stay in sync with cultural sensitivity while choosing images for your website. The images need to be appropriate according to target markets. For example, you need to use Chinese people for images on sites for the Chinese market. The images may lead to offending cultural sentiments and thus gain prominence while selection.
Use of Flash
My personal experience in terms of Multilingual Web Design has been to stay away from Flash as far as possible. Use of flash slows down your website loading and shoos away visitors.
Lastly, ensure that the translator you use for different languages is professional in his or her language. You need to remember that languages are tricky beasts and fluids, having the potential of leading to misunderstandings. Inappropriate language use is sure to scare potential customers away from your website. Relying completely on Google Translate option is not advocated. This will be more harmful for SEO keywords.
Finally, I want to add, that multilingual web development can only be perfected with extensive practice. Hope my suggestions provided above will prove beneficial for you.