The 3 most common mistakes made when translating web shops

The 3 most common mistakes made when translating web shops


Everyone knows the examples: bad translations, obviously the work of Google Translate or a similar service. And let's face it, the nightmare of every marketing department, because with a slogan like "Whatever your needs, just one click from here" you make a totally wrong impression. In this blog, we will highlight the 3 most common mistakes with translated web shops and explain how you can avoid them.

A translation error is an accident waiting to happen. We know how to avoid this

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So literal that it is confusing

You would think that a literal translation will usually be correct in content and at least understandable. However, this is far from always the case. For example, a large Chinese Web store managed to give Dutch-speaking users on the login screen these two options: 'Register' or 'Register'. Once switched to English, it turns out they are the 'Register' and 'Sign in' buttons. So this distinction disappears in translation, leaving the user suddenly confused looking at two identical-looking buttons.

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Such an error does not stand out in most checks, because it is both a correct word and an acceptable translation for both English terms. A mistake like this can be avoided by drawing up a terminology list in advance: this way it can be excluded that the same term is used twice and the translator is offered the correct terminology when translating. By the way, the fact that this error has been present for several years also makes it painfully clear that no multilingual quality checks have been carried out in all that time - actually also a must with every major update.

Looks good - but what's in it for me?

A second way in which translated web shops sometimes go wrong is by not adapting content sufficiently to the local context. For example, the Dutch have little use for measurements in feet or (fluid) ounces. Chances are that a customer who buys a vase that ultimately turns out to hold only three flowers will return it. With clothing sizes, too, it is crucial to use the correct size chart: that nice shirt will be a bit small if size 38 turns out to be an Italian size 38 upon delivery. This is clearly something to give the translator clear instructions on.

But of course, a lack of local relevance can manifest itself in many ways. Consider, for example, references to local celebrities or organizations. At best, the recommendation is not that impressive, but it could even have negative connotations in another market. Product descriptions may also contain instructions that need to be adapted in translation. In the Netherlands, for example, syrup can be diluted with tap water just fine, but this is undesirable in areas where tap water tastes foul or is even unhealthy. Therefore, it is important that your content is translated by someone with knowledge of the language area and culture. That person will sound the alarm or even neatly adjust content so that it is correct, depending on what you have agreed on.

Next stop: Uncanny Valley

For the third challenge, we'll go into a little more detail about the example from the introduction, "Whatever your needs, just one click from here". This is not a rare example, but rather an actual machine translation. Although this translation technology has made huge strides in recent decades, it still often lacks the fluidity of a good human translator. Even when the result is grammatically correct, it feels awkward, unreal, sometimes even uncanny. Fortunately, this is avoidable: by having the machine translation post-edited by a translator, you can combine the savings from machine translation with the top quality you'd like for eye-catching content.

And remember: of course, not all content has to be the same fluently written marketing text. Especially for an online shop, it can pay big dividends to have a good breakdown of the type of content. The user interface and your marketing copy should be really good. The descriptive product texts, on the other hand, can be more efficient in some industries and feature lists can perhaps even be translated completely automatically. A good translation partner will always be happy to help you find the balance between the cost and quality that suits your company.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed...

From the companies that are dissatisfied with their existing translations we learn that these appear to be the three most common problems. With these problems and our solutions in mind, you will be well prepared the next time you are looking for a translation partner. You will know what to look out for, what questions to ask and how to use machine translation properly in order to avoid these pitfalls. Have we aroused your interest? Download our whitepaper on webshop translation if you want to read more about the importance of good e-commerce translation and how you can arrange this best and most economically. Of course we are also happy to help you personally, so please contact us if you have any questions or make an appointment for a customized quote.

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