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8 Best Practice Tips for Multilingual Websites

As we all know, Australia is a vastly culturally and linguistically diverse country, with 21.7% of Australians speaking a language other than English at home.

In the Australian context, multilingual websites are an under-utilised resource for governments, businesses and organisations to share information with the wider community.

As Ethnolink’s CEO and Founder, Costa Vasili recently shared in his webinar Best Practice Tips for Multilingual Websites, multilingual websites are the great tool for connecting with your diverse target audience.

And with his best practice tips, professionally translating your website into different languages doesn’t have to break the bank…

Tip #1 Choose the right approach

There are 3 main approaches that you can take to translate a website, with each approach having merit in different circumstances. 

Depending on your content, budget, and target audience(s),  you may consider the following common approaches: 

  1. Machine translation
  2. Translation of the entire website
  3. Create a ‘mini-site’ for each language

Approach 1: Machine Translation

Machine translation is a very tempting, fast and low-cost option which is becoming more and more common, particularly with small business and local governments. 

Machine translation can be implemented on a website with an extension such as Google Translate, however, it is important to be aware of the risks.



Machine translation should not be implemented on websites that contain high risk information, such as health information, where translation errors could have significant implications on the user.

Pros of machine translation for websites

  • Very low (or no) cost option
  • Low ongoing work needed to keep translated updated content

Cons of machine translation for websites

  • No quality control
  • High risk of mistranslations/misinformation
  • Machines cannot always tell the context of the content, resulting in incorrect word use

The use of machine translation alone is also not aligned with several Federal and state government guidelines and policies:

Australian Government agencies should engage NAATI-credentialed translators to post-edit machine translation output. 

(Source: Australian Government Language Services Guidelines).

Approach 2: Translation of the entire website

The most comprehensive approach to website translation is to translate all website materials and text so the message that you want to convey will be easily understood by users. 

In an ideal world, this is the recommended approach for all websites, however, for various reasons, particularly budgets, this approach is not always plausible.


Pros of translating an entire website

  • Best user experience (UX)
  • All information is accessible for the end user and in their preferred language

Cons of translating an entire website

  • The most expensive option, especially for sites with lots of content
  • It takes a lot of work, time and planning to implement
  • It’s an unrealistic option for most organisations due to cost

Approach 3: Create a page / “mini-site” per language

This approach is a great middle ground solution which is cost-effective and still provides professional, in-language information to users in a user-friendly way.


Pros to a mini-site per language

  • More cost-effective than translating the entire site
  • Provides key information to communities, in their preferred language

Cons to a mini-site per language

  • Not all information is accessible
  • Several page elements (eg. menus and footers) remain in English.

Costa’s recommendations for website translate approaches

Do not integrate machine translation into your website, unless you plan on having a professional translator review and edit the translation to bring it up to a professional standard.

Unless you have a very large budget and the time to invest in translating your full website, consolidate all key information in one place and translate that into a select few languages.

Think carefully about the information that you want culturally and linguistically diverse users of your website to be able to access, and in what languages. Take the time to plan this strategy and engage experienced language professionals to roll it out. 


Tip #2 Localize, don’t just translate

Image localization really matters. Aside from the written content on your website, you should also make sure that the visual content is relevant and appropriate for your audience. 

Culturally adapted imagery is an essential part of localization and may make or break how your translated website is perceived by culturally and linguistically diverse audiences. 

It would be a real shame if you went to the effort of translating your whole website, only to forget about the visuals.


Costa’s recommendation for website localization

Get expert advice or consult community members who speak the language you are translating into, to ensure that the images on your site are culturally appropriate.


Tip #3 Get the technical implementation right

A good multilingual website is user-friendly.

From a technical point of view, you need to consider how the translated text will be implemented, especially if you are working with non-Latin script languages and/or bi-directional text. 

There are considerations to make about HTML/XML, Hreflang tags, unicode and redirection strategies. Sounds complicated? It won’t be to a professional.

Therefore, you will need the help of web developers who have expertise on the topic and have experience working with different languages. Alternatively, your translation provider that has a broad technical understanding of translating websites. 


Costa’s recommendation for technical implementation

Ensure that your translation provider has a sufficient technical understanding of translating websites, to ensure it is done correctly. 

Best practice is to engage your translation provider to implement the text in your content management system (CMS) and also get the translators to conduct an in-context review of the translated text on your website before it goes live. 


Tip #4 Think about your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

So, you’ve invested the time and money into creating a user-friendly multilingual website, great! But it’s no use if no one can find it… that’s where SEO comes in.

You want your website to be on the first of google’s result page rather than on the second or third. The higher your website and content rank on Google, the more people will click on it, and the more culturally and linguistically diverse people who need the translated information on your site will be able to find it. 

Well good news, carrying out technical SEO will help the process. 

Here are just a few tips to improve your site’s discoverability:

  • Place translated text in HTML instead of uploading PDF/ word documents to your site.
  • Consider translating your URL slugs
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  • Apply Hreflang tags
  • Translate your metadata – all text, meta titles, meta descriptions

Costa’s recommendation for SEO

Where possible, display text from within the HTML rather than just linking to PDFs and Word documents and implement technical best practices when making information available online in a variety of languages.


Tip #5 Make it easy to find translated information on your website

As mentioned earlier, multilingual websites must be user-friendly. If you’re going to invest in website translation, make it clear on the homepage and accessible for the people who will be using the translations.

This can be done with the use of a universal symbol such as a globe, or with langauge identifiers. 


But please, do not use flags to represent languages — this is not appropriate for many languages, such as Arabic, which are spoken in more than one country.

Other common ways to indicate that your website is available in other languages are:

  • Using the universal interpreter symbol
  • Placing a list of languages in the footer of your website
  • Having a pop-up appear when a user lands on the site, to choose their preferred language

Costa’s recommendation making your translated information easy to find

Make it obvious from first glance at your site that you have translations available, ideally in the header or at the minimum, in the footer and do so in a way that is universally recognisable and simple for people with very little English to navigate.


Tip #6 Think about your Call to Actions (CTAs)

Don’t go to all the effort of translating web content, only to have a non-English speaker click on a link that takes them to a page in English.

Again, the key here is user experience! Make sure that you consider the next steps for the person reading your content in-langauge, and strategise based on the assumption that they have low or very low English comprehension.


If you’re directing people to a form, make sure that form is available in other languages. Likewise, if you are directing people to call a phone number, make sure that you have services set up to help non-English speakers communicate on the phone (TIS National can help with this).


Costa’s recommendation for CTAs

Give clear directions and options for people who want to access your services, but don’t have any English proficiency – these may be the people who need your services the most!


Tip #7 Don’t forget an in-context review

What is an in-context review you ask?

It’s a final check of translated content on the website before it is made publicly available.

This is a must when it comes to multilingual websites, to ensure that all text is displaying correctly and is easy to read for users.

The Victorian Government Guidelines on Policy and Procedures explain that these checks should be done by a NAATI certified translator who asks themselves the following questions:

  • Is the text rendering correctly?
  • Is a suitable font being used?
  • Did the text become corrupted when it was added to the website?
  • Are languages that are written from right-to-left, such as Arabic and Persian, displaying correctly? Text alignment, positioning of bullets, punctuation and phone numbers should be checked


Costa’s recommendation for in-context reviews

Ensure that your translation provider checks the translated website before it goes live. They should be getting the NAATI certified translators who worked on the translations to review the site, picking up any errors that a non-native speaker would miss.


Tip #8 Promote your multilingual website

Congratulations, you’ve created a high-quality multilingual website – it’s time to get the word out there!

The following organisations can help you spread the word and get your website in front of the people who need it most.

  • The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia –
  • The Refugee Council of Australia –
  • The Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health –
  • Action on Disability within Ethnic Communities –
  • The Victorian Multicultural Commission –
  • The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria –
  • Health Translations Directory –



If you have any more questions about website translation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Translation Strategists, who help people like you bring their multilingual websites to life everyday.


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