How to manage multi-lingual ecommerce websites

How to manage multi-lingual ecommerce websites

Launching your ecommerce site in Asia needs research and expert advice to make sure you get it right.

First and foremost, Asian languages read right to left online, which means that you will have to build a mirror ecommerce site, and to do this successfully you will have to take a number of considerations into account:

Font types:

  • The English language allows for a lot of font options, but for SEA and Chinese languages they are much more limited
  • The Chinese font type is also heavier, which will impact ecommerce site performance – it can use as much as 2-3 MB per character
  • You will have to purchase the font rights if you use a special font and remember that rights for use are different for online and offline

Ecommerce site design and translation:

  • When you design a layout for the English language, especially on mobile, you need to take into account that if it is translated into Thai or Russian for example, the text will take up more space – you will need to customize the design pages for each language
  • Make sure that it is easy to choose a language. Most multi-language ecommerce websites will have a language selector in the header at the top of the page, allowing the user to access it from any page on the website. Remember, the user may not enter the website through the homepage – they could easily access an internal page through a search engine, so they must be able to select the appropriate language from any entry point
  • Never assume your users wish to see a site in a certain language – give them the choice via a language selector dropdown or icon at the top of the page, usually indicated by a country name and appropriate flag
  • Colours have different meanings from culture to culture. For example, green might be acceptable to a Western audience, but is unpopular in a number of Asian countries. Make sure that the look and feel of your ecommerce website reflects what you want your audience to experience
  • Interpretation of images can vary from country to country. Ensure that any imagery you plan to use on your website carries the correct meaning for your audience
  • Browsing habits can vary depending on country or language. Languages that are written from right to left may require different user interfaces to accommodate them (for example, a next/previous interface may have to be reversed in order to suit the required user experience)
  • ecommerce – ensure that your basket and checkout process is familiar to the target audience and that all necessary information is collected
  • Payment – give clear options for currency and payment method, tailored to represent the major payment platforms of the country you’re targeting

Best practice checklist

  • Use country-specific domains, eg .cn and .hk, where possible. If these are not available use subdomains, eg, or These make it easier for foreign language users to find your ecommerce site and are better for search engines
  • If you have a .com domain, choose the language of your widest audience – but ensure that users can easily switch to the language of their choice
  • In general, don’t have more than one language on the same page.
  • Ensure that the page defines the language in the code. This helps search engines find your page when users search using different languages
  • Ensure that translations are professionally checked before ecommerce site launch. This will take more time but will ultimately result in a better site for your users, and a greater chance of international success
  • Ensure that you have services in place to support the languages on your website, or explain that the user will need to read/speak English to receive support
  • Use IP redirection, but only if you do it properly – always let the user choose their country via a language selector or similar on every page
  • Check that error pages, field validations etc are translated correctly to ensure a consistent experience for your users
  • Make sure that popular browsers in your target countries are supported by your ecommerce website

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