Three Common Mistakes in Designing Navigation for Multilingual Content

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Wintranslation is a specialist in translating websites and adapting them for international markets. In addition to professional translating your content, we incorporate search engine optimization, usability testing and cultural adaptation techniques into our processes. The result is a multilingual site that maximizes traffic from search engines, generates a pleasant user experience and delivers real business results for you. Our presentations on web localization have been seen at major international events such as the Search Engine Strategies conferences and Ad-tech.

Did you know that in order to reach the Chinese market, you need to have both Simplified Mandarin Chinese (for China and Singapore) and Traditional Chinese (for Taiwan and Hong Kong)? Did you know that using national flags as multilingual content navigation is offensive? Did you know how to find out how people search for your products and services in their native languages?

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Three Common Mistakes in Designing a Global Gateway

A well designed global gateway on your site leads your site visitors to the multilingual content in the shortest amount of time. The last thing you would want to do is to lose them because content is so hard to find or offend them because you are culturally insensitive. Below are three common mistakes people make when designing their global gateway.

Common mistake #1: using flags as navigation
The problem is, many countries often speak the same language. If you only use the flag of one country to represent a language, it may upset the readers from other countries that speak the same language.

For example, French is the official language for more than twenty countries including France, Belgium, Canada and many African countries which were once colonies of France. If only the flag of France is used, the Canadians are not going to be too happy.

The same applies to Chinese where it is spoken in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. With the ongoing political tension between China and Taiwan, it is a very bad practice to use Chinese flag to present content to other speakers of Chinese.

Common mistake #2: putting the navigation in a hard to find location
The point of a navigation is that it is easy to find and can take you where you need to go. Web experts often talk about “leveraging existing knowledge” by putting the navigation where most people would automatically look to find it. In site navigation, the top right corner is the most ideal place. Putting it anywhere else usually sends people scrambling to find it.

In the example below from the H & R Block web site, the Spanish navigation is way below fold so you cannot get to unless you scroll all the way down. Only the most determined readers who are aware that such Spanish content would know to look all the way down to find it. A much better place would be the top right corner, where people can easily see it without having to scroll.

Common mistake #3: Not using target language to indicate choices of language so people with little knowledge of English would have difficulties
In the example below, you can see the language navigation is written in English rather than the target language script (i.e. 中文for Chinese). If a reader has little or no knowledge of English, it is harder to navigate and find what he/she needs. So it is best to indicate the language choices using the translated words, rather than English.

To sum up, the best choice for multilingual content navigation should be in the target language and on the top right corner of the page – and avoid using flags!

Language names in their native script Below is a table of language names in their native script put together by the professional translators of It is not done by machine translation engines. It has been carefully checked. Please feel free to copy the text and use them.

Simplified Chinese ( China)
Traditional Chinese ( Hong Kong, Taiwan)
 Rom ână
 Tiếng Việt