February 2, 2018

Three steps to speaking your community’s language

A quick guide to making your nonprofit website multilingual

Dave Hansen-Lange is a speaker at the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

So much of our work at nonprofits is about meeting people where they are at. When our donors joined Facebook, we set up pages. When they stopped reading our letters, we invested in small email marketing. Yet, so many of our resources are only in the languages that nonprofit workers speak, and that means we we are missing opportunities to connect, engage, and collaborate with the full breadth of our communities.

Having a website that is accessible in multiple languages is fast becoming best practice for nonprofits that serve multilingual communities. So where do we start?

Thoughtful planning for adding multilingual content is a vital step. There are many considerations when integrating additional languages into your site that can mean the difference between a quality experience for your non-English speaking users and a poor one that just degrades over time and becomes a waste of valuable resources.

Here are three steps to planning a multilingual site.

1. Choose your objectives

Make two short lists of the kinds of content you’d like to make multilingual: Current objectives and future objectives. List your priority languages.

Keep it simple. Each time you add an additional requirement, such as bilingual menu structure or taxonomy translation, consider the cost of developing as well as ongoing maintenance, and content administration. Review examples of sites and note what you like and don’t like about their multilingual approach.

2. Get input from your web development team

Work with your team to develop a technical matrix that accounts for elements including:

  • What types of content will be translated.
  • How the translation will happen. For example, it could be done at entity level, editing individual fields, or at node level.
  • How multilingual content relates to other content.
  • Costs are for each option.

3. Treat this as a web development project

Choose a development partner who has experience with multilingual content, create a technical plan, plot a structure and project methodology and start your build.

We have produced a white paper for nonprofits with Drupal websites that gives more detailed step-by-step instructions on how to develop a plan. While the paper focuses specifically on Drupal, the thinking and planning outlined in it is applicable to any CMS. The more you can plan ahead, the easier this process will be. Gracias, asante, and good luck!

Dave Hansen-Lange
Interest Categories: Digital Inclusion, Websites