The untold secret of localising WordPress, the sweet way

In Switzerland, the choice of languages is quite wide due to the nature itself of the country. Therefore, localising websites is not even an option as you often have at least French and German on most websites. Sometimes even English. Therefore, taking WordPress as the platform of reference here, we wanted to share some best practices when localising sites and extending your reach to countries not in your scope yet.

Understanding the challenges

When it comes to websites, many still struggle to understand why it can cost so much effort to get them right. Usually, having one in your native language with pure static content to handle is a piece of cake. However, it is way more sensitive when you decide to have two or more languages to roll out. Why? Simply put, managing languages is where your website becomes a portal to various sets of parameters that will complicate it for good.

For instance, managing special characters and UTF codes or right-to-left languages is just the tip of the iceberg. But wait. Let’s take a step back. Mostly we translate to give access to more visitors to your content. Are you trying to localise your website by country of origin? By language? Both? It seems a silly question now, but if you have an e-commerce website, you will need to answer currencies, VAT levels, and many more items you wish you had prepared.

Sometimes, you need to separate your audiences by country as the law forces you to do. You must filter IPs by origin and push them to the right page. This approach induces having a page for them to land on it. And so on, the list can grow very fast as you ask these questions to your team. Localising a website is, from our experience, the actual test in scaling your business online, as it can be a 1-0 experience. Either you manage it well and learn it step by step, or you rush it and end up micro-managing bits and pieces.

Planning your deployment again and again

When it comes to planning, there are some checklists you can quickly draw at the start of the project. In this report, we selected WordPress simply as this is the leading CMS used worldwide, but most of the advice you will get from here is true for any technologies powering your content.

Technologies are not the solutions. They are vehicles for ideas, but they can’t fix everything. You need to identify a team capable of helping you localise your project. 2 main options arise in these cases: you might go with a network partner with branches worldwide or recruit one team per country/language. In the first case, you will definitely pay more to the team in question, as they will pilot the whole localisation project for you.

It doesn’t mean the quality will be there, as often quantity wins over quality. On the other hand, be aware that if you get a more sensitive translation from small, local teams that will fight to win your project, some hidden costs for managing them are often forgotten and can kill the ROI of the whole project, assuming everything went ok.

A real case study from Labatec Pharma, Switzerland

In order to illustrate our example, we will use a real case with Labatec Pharma which recently launched.
EveryD is a vitamin D for sportive individuals and family members. The main challenges in the project were due to timing, thus why WordPress was selected as the CMS of choice to get everybody a hand at their project without coding. Furthermore, being in Switzerland, you get to translate up to 3 languages which can be very long to do if you are not equipped with the right approach.

What you will get from this report

This is why the main objective of these lines is not to give you a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to localisations of pixels but rather to help you get reflexes that will force you to ask the right questions. We do not promote one approach or the other, but we felt that some ideas we tested gave us fewer headaches. We wish to save you from some too. We love learning from others, too, so if you spotted something we have missed or we told something you feel was wrong, please feel free to write us at [email protected].

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