Creating a tri-lingual website- Dos and Don’ts

Getting started

We at Lacrosse have just completed an update of our website. As we are in the language services business and advise on localisation projects on BPCC roadshows, designing it should have been an easy process. In actual fact, being aware of the key issues made starting slow and difficult as it involved having a look at our own strategy, our own goals and where we wanted to be going forward. So we had to figure that out first of all.

Who does your website?

You don’t go into a restaurant and tell the waiter just to go and bring you some dishes. But that is how many companies plan their website – by hiring someone who does not know their business to go away and come up with something. Just like in the restaurant example, they are often disappointed with what is served up. To avoid this, we planned and designed our website in-house, with the help of team members with experience of marketing and e-business.

Who’s it addressed to?

In planning our strategy we decided to concentrate on what we are best at- managing the translation needs of clients with a daily need for translation for business and with an eye for accuracy, native-speaker standard of communication, and terminological consistency: in our case such clients are primarily from legal and financial services firms and corporate communications departments of large companies. Our old website, while pleasing to look at four years ago, was giving the message that we were willing to do “all things for all men” and through the website we were attracting companies with one-off needs, for whom the quality of the end product was not a more important issue than price. Hence the visitors were not our core clients and the new revenue we were attracting was not from repeat orders.

Repeat orders is the most valuable revenue source to attract

Not only that, we realized that our best customers are our existing customers and that we were not communicating with them, encouraging them to make repeat orders. Our web page was uni-dimensional and although our blog had interesting content, it was not properly linked to our communication strategy. We needed to address this.

Choice of Languages 1: your language, English and what else?

Regardless of where your company is based, in most business sectors there is no choice but to have an English-language website, even if you are solely concentrating on selling in your own country. First and foremost, the English version is needed in order to communicate with foreign decision makers, so even if foreign trade is not your priority, investing in quality copywriting will pay off as sometimes a company round the corner needs the decision of someone who lives in another country or is based locally but doesn’t speak your language . The English has to be written in a natural, punchy style, free of glaring errors. European firms normally choose UK English, even for international communication. Some companies decide on only having an English website in order to give the company an international image, but that may alienate your home market if it is non-English speaking.

Choice of Language 2: your export markets.

As a translation firm you might think we ought to have our website in a dozen languages and an aircraft hangar full of typing translators churning out translations in all language pairs. In reality, the larger the scale of the operation, the less specialised their output. We are at the niche end of the scale. We have three home markets and three home languages: English, Polish and German. We will translate in and out of those languages into any core European language (which means: German into Ukrainian or Portuguese?  Yes. Translate into/out of Basque or Gaelic?: better to go to a local specialist). If we had a French or Spanish webpage, people might expect us to pick up the phone in French or Spanish. We opted for English, German and Polish language versions for now.

Making decisions on the layout at the mock-up stage

Our web designer Paweł recommended we do all of the planning stage work on the site using an ap called moqups. In that way we were able to agree the general layout, the positioning of photos and the length of paragraphs before writing content. That saved a lot of re-editing at the later stage when we moved to html, we had the texts of the right lengths ready to paste into the site and we know what shape of photos we needed where. We started the process using a demo version of the ap but ended up buying a subscription for less than 20 EUR a month.

Style and content-find models and mentors

We got some good pointers from a company that specialises in e-marketing consulting called Questia, which runs seminars well worth checking out. We then looked at a lot of the websites of our peers in the language services sector for inspiration and found that with a few exceptions they were very static and non-engaging or working on a different scale to us. So we broadened our net and looked at the sites of other B2B sectors, such as financial services and consulting, where more thought was going into actually communicating with their clients. We liked Why? First of all, the cover page showed a stylishly-dressed woman, who was obviously in a decision-making role. We thought this reflected our client base well, as a lot of the lawyers and communications experts we work for are women. The majority of our project managers and translators are also women too. Second of all, their page tells the story of their name well. A yapstone is the world’s first currency and some of its characteristics are closer to a bitcoin than a barter stone. At Lacrosse we constantly have to explain that we don’t play the game. We suddenly realised there were traits that great lacrosse players and Language Service Providers (LSPs) had in common.

Content that attracts rather than broadcasts

Learning from other branches, we also realised that attracting visitors of the right sort to our site required interesting content, so we designed quizzes, and cut down the number of words by about half, compared with the previous version and tried to make our site as accessible as possible, with content from our blog linked to it.

An outside eye

With a workload of hundreds of pages a day and a database of translators and editing specialists, we should have been able to rattle off the final text with no external help. Even when we had arrived at the optimal version we still asked a business advisor with marketing and editorial experience to look through the text for each language. They all gave us valuable edits and tips, which we followed up on. Remember it is not you that will read your text, but people who do not know you yet. A second opinion will often keep you on track.


Without keywords, positioning and analyzing data using google analytics, your good work may not ever be noticed by anyone. The analogy is a shop which is beautifully fitted out with great things on sale at reasonable prices, but located on the 18th floor rather than at street level. No matter how good your wares are, if customers cannot find you, you are sunk. Spend a bit of money on SEO, make sure you are visibly co-operating with trade organisations and linking material on several platforms and emailing items of interest to your client base regularly or you will not benefit from your new web content.


David Kennedy

Director of Communications and Business Development,


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