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How to Create an Effective Multilingual UX Design

Lead Content Strategist at Spread the Word Solutions, holding an MA degree in business communication.

Posted 1 year ago on January 11th, 2022.

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Multilingual websites are becoming the norm in our increasingly connected world. But designing them isn’t as easy as it might seem. Sure, the basics are simple. It starts with translation. High-quality translations of your site's content, as you already know, help you bridge language barriers.

But have you considered how your site’s layout might change when users switch from English to a foreign language? What about whether or not your current brand icons, images, and colors (your core features!) are culturally appropriate?

Why Multilingual UX Matters

Whether you believe it or not, you’ve got about 5 seconds flat to impress a user with your website before they decide whether or not it’s worth their time. If your site doesn’t offer a clear value proposition, isn’t visually appealing, or is tricky to navigate, there are plenty of others out there that are!

Among Google’s 200+ algorithm ranking factors, quality UX is at the top of the priority list. So, the better the experience for your users, the higher you’ll rank. But merely translating your content to a new target language and adapting it to cultural nuances isn’t enough when it comes to impressing an international audience. You need to focus on the bigger picture and the overall UX.

If you’re looking to create a multilingual website to ensure you’re accommodating your global audience, this post will help you better understand some of the essential design considerations. For starters, we’ll dive into the most essential aspect of setting your multilingual website up for success.


User experience is everything, even more so when it comes to an international audience. Even if you have the flashiest website out there, if a user can’t navigate it and read it as if it was designed with them in mind, they won’t stick around waiting for you to improve on your efforts.

Software localization services are imperative when it comes to the UX design of your website, and incorporating it from the start ensures the easiest path to adapt and localize your site for even more users down the road.

Your website has the potential of being a key customer magnet, and it’s at the heart of your expansion plan. Multilingual sites are at the heart of the digital world, and the days of optimizing for Western audiences only are long gone.

Localization at the Heart of a Multilingual Website

Not only do other cultures speak different languages (other than English) as their native language, but they also tie different meanings to visuals, colors, and symbols. Many countries also use different measurement, time, and date formats! Hence the need for localization.

When you localize your website, you’re creating a user experience that feels like it’s been created with the target audience in mind. But there’s a catch: creating an effective multilingual design will require a modified approach since traditional development and UX design and localization tend to sit on opposite ends of the scale.

Product teams generally only use one default language to create the user interface, after which developers build the product before it goes live. And it’s usually at this stage when teams start considering localization, leading to a range of complications and a sub-par UX. But if you integrate translations into the design process from the start, you can overcome and avoid these pitfalls.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd with a Multilingual Website Design

What’s the best way to ensure you’re building a website that offers exceptional UX/UI? Here are some elements to keep in mind when you’ve got a multilingual audience to cater to!

Deploy Global Templates to Ensure Brand Consistency

One thing that you can’t always control is which version of your website your international visitors will access. But what you can control is your brand’s reputation, and when you use a global template for your multilingual site, it’s easier for your localization team to handle the UI and branding elements.

With global templates in place, regional teams can still run unique campaigns that suit locale-specific preferences, plus it simplifies multisite management and reduces development expenses.

Create Global Gateways Designed on User Preferences and Different Languages

It’s important to pay attention to the design of your global gateway on your user interface, which is your nav system that ensures users land on localized versions of your site. Most multilingual websites feature their gateways at the top or bottom of their site.

Your gateway needs to be easy to find and viewable in a language that international users understand. The last thing you want is a user struggling to find the gateway, as this might see them getting frustrated and turning elsewhere to have their needs met.

Consider SEO for Every Native Language

If you invested the time and money into creating an impressive multilingual site, you need to make sure users will be able to find it! But optimizing for just one search engine goes against everything you’re trying to accomplish with a multilingual website.

You’ll need to optimize your site according to various SEO standards and implement as many SEO trends as possible. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEM Rush are great ways to stay on top of what works for your language choices and specific niche.

Test and Retest

It’s essential to evaluate the usability of your multilingual site, and that’s a science unto itself. When it comes to multilingual usability testing of your user interface, you’ll need testers for each language you’re targeting. And they need to scrutinize everything on your website, down to the color schemes you use, to ensure your site is suitable for your target audience.

So, aside from testing each language in its own right, you also need to test pivot points, which is where users have the option of deciding which language they want to use. Lately, developers have forced users to use a certain language based on the location of their IP address, but this is something that needs to be perfect, down to the letter symbols of flags!

Get Professional Help to Optimize for Multiple Languages

How will your translated content be implemented? What’s your plan for the layout and font size of non-Latin script languages and bi-directional (right to left languages) text conversions? You also need to consider HTML/XML, Hreflang tags, Unicode, and redirection. If it sounds complicated to you, rest assured that it won’t sound that way to a professional.

Professional software localizers have the expertise to ensure your multilingual UX works the way it was intended to. The translation process for user interface elements goes beyond literally translating a web page.

Professional localizers understand the intricacies involved in ensuring a multilingual site bridges the language barrier. They also have a broad technical understanding of translating websites and mobile apps with the cultural context in mind, which reiterates the importance of not navigating these waters without professional assistance.

If you want to target more potential customers in other countries, localized design is the only option to consider for increasing conversion rates. Localization experts have the tools and experience necessary to help your website cater to a variety of languages and different cultures with intuitive multilingual UI design.