Rick White - Director of Client Services
Full Website Translation or Translated Microsite?
A microsite is an effective alternative to full website translation
Let’s look at a definition:
Mi·cro·site /ˈmīkrəˌsīt/ noun, plural noun: microsites
an auxiliary website with independent links and address that is accessed mainly from a larger site.
a small part of an ecosystem that differs markedly from its immediate surroundings.*
*definition from Google
In that definition I’ve bolded the second definition as most relevant to the theme of this article. Utilizing mini-websites for specialized needs is a relatively common practice. We see them used for:
New product introductions
Highlighting a specific expertise
Surveying market segments
Testing messaging and branding
Temporary information sites, associated with dated events like conferences or webinars
Entering or testing new language markets
Are they landing pages? For the purposes of this article they are designed to provide an abbreviated page of company information for the purposes of translation.
Avoid the complexity of translating your entire web site
Obviously the last bullet point above interests us. Translating a corporate or organization website into additional languages is not a simple task:
Text must be extracted with some kind of contextual clues.
Text that is actually embedded in images must be manually added to text files, translated, and and new image versions generated.
Video and audio content must be transcribed, translated, and re-edited or added as sub-titles.
When the translations and review are complete, the site must essentially be reconstructed in the new language(s). Translation issues like text expansion and contraction can make this very challenging.
And if the original site was not written and created with translation in mind, much of the content may require localization, including images and video.
Then there’s SEO considerations…
For large sites, in multiple languages, this can get massively complex. It helps if the original site is being redone and the translated versions done simultaneously, but make no mistake, it’s not easy. But could Microsites be a possible solution as a stopgap?
Is it necessary to translate your entire site?
If you are already doing substantial business in a language market other than your own, having a full site translation into that language is a must. You may have achieved some success with bilingual buyers but that is a major constraint on growth. So, for a business or organization with a solid foothold in another language market, the answer is yes. But what if you’re just entering a new language market?
Consider how much information a buyer may actually need to do business with you. It may be less than you think. I look at it in terms of how I research a new company. I’m looking for a concise view into their business and I often get it from just a few pages, typically not the Home page. That ‘concise view’ can be the meat of an easily translated microsite.
Condensing the message and content into a single ‘factsheet’
It is not unusual for larger companies and organizations to provide a factsheet, usually on their News and PR page, that gives a journalist an ‘at a glance’ view into the organization. Often this is enough or even preferred because it cuts through any hype or repetition that can bloat marketing sites. When I research sites like this, I first look for three things:
About page. How do they describe themselves? Is there actually any useful information there or is it some kind of mission statement? Those are not useful to me as a researcher. Tell me specifics that help me understand your business.
Visitor Site Map. These are different from the XML maps generated to guide search engine crawlers. Instead, visitor site maps serve as a nested table of contents* of all the pages on the site. These give a scanning researcher like myself a birds eye view of all of the site content and the ability to zero right in on what I’m looking for.
Fact Sheet. Here it is. Basic historical background, key personnel, core expertise and products, numbers (if public information), locations, etc. All in an extremely concise format.
This type of concise content makes doing a quick seat of the pants assessment much easier. But why not build a microsite that essentially does all that and only translate that page for the languages you need? It could be a transition strategy, or you could build on it and test it.
*If you don’t have this, I’d seriously consider adding a visitor-accessible site map. If you use a CMS like WordPress, there are plug-ins that will assemble one automatically. Put a link to the site map in your footer.
What is ‘essential’? A caveat
I’d argue that the three information bullets above constitute the most essential content on most sites for most visitors doing basic due diligence. Additional information requests for product information require a translation strategy for that information, and your company should understand that a microsite will only be a front-end for a deeper content translation strategy.
Microsites are a tactic, not a strategy
Publishing multiple microsites in multiple languages will only be effective if you have a strategic plan for responding to potential customer inquiries coming in- in the new languages. Like any global business strategy, this requires employees with language skills who can respond, supply chain to deliver products or services, local (time zone-adjusted) customer support, translated product information like manuals and knowledge bases, and more.
What microsites can do is begin the process of opening a global market by offering self-standing information in the target language of the intended market. However, you are going to need to consider the strategic issues listed above before you launch a translated microsite. There are circumstances where this could be relatively painless. For example, in Language Intelligence’s case, were we to launch a microsite in German, we could support it because we have multiple German-speaking employees who know our service business very well. So scaling our translation products into another language would not be a difficult task, as our infrastructure is in place to support it. If we were introducing a physical product line, it would be much different story.