It’s important to note that I don’t have any real numbers yet or substantial testing behind these comments; they’re simply a few thoughts on the subject from my current viewpoint, but thoughts to me, anyway, that stand to reason. Let’s get into it:
Lots of folks are now using multi-lingual join pages, which is a great step in the right direction. Currently, Ayrora is offering multi-lingual payment links and join forms using PasswordByPhone, and that’s great, but it’s only a very basic strategy for dealing with non-English speaking surfers; and without multi-lingual tour pages, we’re not presenting as compelling or understandable a reason to join as is possible – and thus many prospects may not even make it to the join page (although in this example, they don’t need to, since these geo-IP targeted multi-lingual links appear on all of our tour pages).
For those surfers that do make it to the join page, CCBill’s signup forms come in several languages as well, and also offer payment options in several currencies – an important plus that makes things easier for potential customers – and making things easier results in increased sales.
But tours and join pages aside, what happens once the surfer enters the member’s area?
If he can’t readily understand the navigational options, the user experience is diminished and retention must inevitably suffer as a result, making “going multi-lingual” an in-depth approach that must be executed site-wide in order to maximize effectiveness.
While it’s easy enough to use geo-IP and other technologies (or simply allow for user selections via those cute little flag icons) to dynamically generate navigational links and other buttons or text in the surfer’s language, I’m making things even easier by going “cross-lingual” – that is, using English links but also having easily understandable iconic images, such as a still camera for a link to the photo galleries and a video camera for the link to the video galleries, a book for stories, a gift box for extras, etc., so that regardless of the user’s language – or indeed, of his or her ability to read – he or she can still easily navigate and enjoy the site.
Beyond navigation, it’s also important to offer any help files and other support resources you have in the surfer’s native language as well.
One other observation: a “Babel Fish” translation may or may not be better than nothing, but it does make a great base from which a professional translator can “clean things up” – something that might make your resulting text more along the lines you intended, while also saving you a few pesos.
And speaking of saving money; for those with more limited budgets, but with a desire to “do the best they can within reason,” a simple solution is to have your site professionally translated into the most popular and profitable languages, and rely on the “Babel Fish” approach to free online translations of less-popular or less-profitable languages.
The bottom line is that the more people you can reach with a marketing message they can understand, the more money you will make. It’s all a numbers game – especially if they can read the numbers...