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How to Translate Your Website

There is more than one way of approaching website translation. In this article, we give you an overview of a manual and an automated approach as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both options. Which approach best meets your requirements, and how much work is involved in each case?


Websites can be translated by manually copying the source text and then manually inserting the completed translation into the website. Or an admin can export selected website text and automatically reimport the completed translation back into the website tool, which is usually a content management system (CMS). The scope of the project and the client's requirements determine which approach is most practical. We would like to give you an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of both methods.


Advantages and Disadvantages of the Manual and Automated Approaches

We'll start with an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches in table form and then look at each approach individually. For a summary, you can skip ahead to the conclusion.


Manual copying and insertion Automatic export and reimport
+ Requires no special technical skills + Automated and complete transfer of all text elements
+ Workload is not excessive for websites comprising only a few pages and language versions + More cost-effective for complete website translations into multiple languages, as there are no manual work steps
  + Updates are implemented more rapidly and consistently across all languages
- Text elements are easily overlooked, particularly if a language or its reading direction is unfamiliar - Access to the website database is required for a technical professional (admin or content manager) from the company
- Manual copying and insertion of large volumes of text takes longer and is prone to error – therefore, better suited to one-off translations of websites that rarely require updates  
- The longer processing time resulting from multiple languages requires more time and human resources, including each time an update is required  


The Manual Approach

When the content is copied manually, we usually receive a Word document with the text for translation, and translation is carried out using a CAT tool. CAT stands for "computer-assisted translation."

However, text elements such as menu items can easily be overlooked. After discussing the advantages and disadvantages, we will specify the text elements that need to be considered. Regardless of the approach selected, the scope of the text is determined in the same way.

Reinserting the translation back into the website can take a long time. The contact person at the company receives the completed translations and coordinates the process of incorporating them into the website. The webmaster's workload increases depending on the scope of the text, the number of language versions and the number of content updates, since he/she has to insert the texts one by one into the website tool. After all, content that is displayed as continuous text on the website is in fact made up of multiple individual components at the programming level.

As a result, manual insertion often takes longer than expected, which means that employees, who are also tasked with other duties, have to spend longer than expected on integrating the text.

For the purposes of quality assurance, a translator checks whether the translated texts have been inserted in their entirety and in the correct places. In particular, this verification step is recommended for rare languages or for languages with a different reading direction.


When is the Manual Approach Recommended?

If you only have to translate parts of the website, a small amount of text, or relatively few pages, the manual approach is manageable.


The Automated Approach

Virtually every website organizes data into logical sections. If you have used Windows Explorer, you will be familiar with this approach. The data can usually be exported in HTML or XML format. The HTML or XML file can then be opened and edited directly in a CAT tool.

The larger the website and the more language versions there are to manage, the more the automated method has to offer. Access to the website data is all that is required in order to export it. The pages for translation can be exported by a website admin or a content manager.

The disadvantages of the automated approach are minor; they are accompanying features rather than real disadvantages. The advantages, however, are obvious. CAT tools save the translation to the exported file, which can then be reimported into the website with just a few clicks. The text blocks are automatically uploaded and correctly assigned. Depending on the website structure, appropriate precautions only need to be taken once.


When is the Automated Approach Recommended?

If major updates are required in all available languages on a regular basis, these can be integrated consistently and with a high level of reliability via automatic export and import. Fixed text elements such as menu links, which can be easily overlooked using the manual approach, are automatically included in their entirety when the text is exported. Finally, the processing time is reduced to a fraction of the time that employees would require to manually integrate the individual website components using the text editors.


Preparing the Website Translation

A multilingual website has certain structural requirements: upgrading or reprogramming is a possibility, but it involves additional expenditure. Under no circumstances should different language versions appear on a single page.

Ideally, when you first created the website, you will have thought about how to make it accessible in multiple languages. Typically, a website is created with a complete structure – target languages are added in the website tool as needed, with each language version repeating the structure of the existing section.

Multilingual prestructuring is beneficial in terms of user-friendliness, but also in terms of international search engine optimization, which refers to the methods used to give a website the best chance of being found by its target audience across all countries and languages.


Website structure and search engine optimization

Regardless of how you want to approach the translation, you should give some thought to the structure of your website. It should be designed for the administration, operation, and indexing of search engines in multiple languages.

Each language version has its own folder, while the corresponding individual pages of each language version are linked to one another. Label the language versions with HTML commands so that search engines display the version that matches the language of the search query.


When you request a website translation, we review the technical conditions and recommend the most suitable method. We can either work with your Word documents or collaborate with the department responsible for your web presence and organize the export and import of the website texts.


Identifying All Texts that Require Translation

However, it is possible that the project does not yet include all the website texts that require translation.

In order to ensure that all relevant texts are included in the translation, we will work with you to prepare the project. Before beginning the translation, we determine the total scope of the material to be translated – this may include more than the texts on the individual pages.

  • How much text is there directly on the (HTML) pages, menus, sidebars, header, and footer?
  • Are there any downloadable documents, such as brochures, articles, or instructions in PDF format?
  • Are there graphics on the website that contain text to be translated, and if so, how much.

A complete website translation includes all navigation elements, text on the pages, and text in graphics. Where possible, avoid using labeled graphics; in this way, you can largely bypass the time-consuming process of editing graphics for each individual target language.

Manuals and brochures are often already translated. In this case, they just need to be uploaded in a common format, such as PDF. If your documents are due an update, this can be implemented by means of a conventional translation project.


Thorough, Complete, and Punctual Translation of Your Websites

Thorough planning ensures a complete website translation on a realistic schedule. Ideally, your programmers will have designed your website to support a multilingual structure.

If you are only translating into one target language, your website contains little text, and content updates are rare, the manual approach should meet your requirements: Texts can be copied from the website and translated into new subpages. However, multiple errors can occur with this approach, even with small text volumes.

The more languages, texts, and updates your website project involves, the more the automated approach becomes a necessity: A website admin or content manager exports all text elements from the website database as an XML or HTML file into which the translations can be imported directly. The text elements of all language versions are automatically reimported after translation.

Even seemingly small websites with few URLs can contain huge volumes of text. This is the case, for example, if you work with text-heavy infographics or offer large volumes of documents for download that also require translation. We process these texts as conventional translation jobs, since they do not require any special website operations.


Website Translations with mt-g

Your responsible project manager can initiate the website translation on your behalf and coordinate the project until it is completed. They will work in the background with our TLE (Translation & Localization Engineering) team, which is very familiar with the translation of websites and software, such as digital health applications. The team specifies the translation process and prepares the files for seamless processing within a translation program.