It’s all about the… Content
The technical side of web design is closely linked to the planned content, which is one thing you really can’t outsource. You need to decide what you want your website to say and communicate to visitors. You can opt for a streamlined one-page design, where everything is on one long page and you just scroll or use anchors to jump to each section, or you can go for the traditional multi-page structure. One-page websites look elegant and are quite practical when you don’t have much text to deal with, but if you’re chatty like me, you’ll probably want to split it up into several different pages on different topics – introduction, services, about me, price list, contact information… You know the drill.
If you are building your own brand (and these days pretty much every professional has their own brand, even if they’re not all consciously cultivating it), your website should match your brand visuals. So it should feature your logo, color scheme, preferred font and so on. If you don’t have any of those things yet, get in touch with an experienced graphic designer to guide you through the process. If you want to include a picture of yourself on your website, a bathroom selfie is not going to cut it. You are going to need one or more high-quality photographs taken by someone who knows what they are doing. You will probably need other photographs as illustrations or background images. You can select these in advance in photo banks (if you don’t want to pay to use them, be sure to look for images with a Creative Commons license). Many options are available, such as the beautiful images available on Pixabay, although really you just have to enter a search term and your search engine will show you plenty of sources.
When putting images onto your website, keep the following rules in mind:
- Compress each photograph before you use it (you can do this for free on Compressor) so the high resolution will not slow down loading times for your website
- Always give your image a name and alternative description (for SEO purposes as well as greater accessibility for website visitors with visual impairments)
- Use the image size appropriate for where the image will be located – a background photo will be different than a portrait photo at the bottom of the page
- If you want to edit your photographs, you do not need to pay for Photoshop. You can edit them directly in the template (using effects, colored overlays, etc.) or in tools such as Canva or Picmonkey
Writing your web copy is probably the hardest part. Writing well takes talent, sensitivity and practice. For a translator it’s part of the job description, of course, but even so, writing about yourself for your website visitors to read can be surprisingly tough. The main rule of thumb for web copy is to write for your website visitors, especially if you want to convert them to future clients. Keep in mind why they came to your website and what they are looking for, and try to help them find it quickly. Clients aren’t interested in learning all about you. They have a problem they are looking to get solved, so you need to write for them, even when writing about yourself. They don’t want to hear all about what you can do. They want to know how what you can do will solve their problem. Many potential customers have no idea what our work involves, and long-winded explanations won’t do much to change that. They want to know what we can do for them, when we can do it, how much it will cost and how they can get in touch with us to get the ball rolling.
There are a few rules for what each section of a website should include. I’ll try to cover the main ones here, but do keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule and the most important thing is to be authentic and get visitors’ attention:
The main or home page will probably be the first one visitors see (although you can set another page as the starting point if you like, such as your blog). This is where you should welcome visitors and show them they’ve come to the right place. It’s just like when someone comes over to your house. You make them welcome, take their coat and invite them to come in. Many translators make the mistake of starting their home page with a list of their qualifications, skills and experience. They overwhelm visitors with a barrage of arguably irrelevant information before they’re even properly in the door. Clients don’t want to know what school you went to or what degrees you have. They assume that if you make a living as a translator, then you know the language, and they don’t much care how you learned it. Even your list of services – translation, editing, review, subtitling and copywriting – often don’t mean a lot to website visitors, as they may not have a clear understanding of the differences between each type of task.
The job of this first page is to catch the reader’s attention. Show them you understand them and can help them. Describe their problem and how to solve it. Win their trust and convince them to read on, if possible as far as the order form. Testimonials from existing clients and the logos of any professional associations you belong to can go a long way toward winning visitors over. You can also include the logos of companies you have worked with, but only ones you have worked with directly, and only with their consent – otherwise it is copyright infringement.
Once you’ve made it past the first contact, you’re probably going to want to show the client what you have to offer. Make sure to structure and write the page describing your services so readers have no difficulty understanding and finding what they need. Again, keep in mind that many clients don’t actually know what to ask for specifically, although they do know how they plan to use the end result. Give a few examples of what you can do for them. Just a few sentences about what you do best or most often.
Believe it or not, even the page with the big “ABOUT ME” written at the top is not, in fact, about you. That’s also about the client. You need to show them why you do the work you do and why they should choose to work with you. Tell them your story, and show some emotion. I don’t mean some cheap play on the reader’s feelings, just showing visitors that you’re more than a profile pic. You’re a person they will enjoy working with. Honesty and a touch of humor are the way to go. This isn’t the place for a hard sell.
Prices. Most translators seem to have a separate page on their website for prices…with no prices actually listed. Just a vague reference to prices varying by project and available on request. But as a customer I always find that kind of thing frustrating. I want to get an idea of how much things cost. You want to see price tags when you’re window shopping, too, right? I don’t know whether translators are worried about giving too much information away to competitors, or that high prices will scare potential customers away. Each one of us has a price for which we’re willing to work (and you always have a rate ready to quote for agencies, for instance), so why beat around the bush? Recently I got a huge assignment, even though I knew another translator was bidding on the same job and his rates are a third of mine. It might not feel like it sometimes, but in fact price is not always the deciding factor, and many clients are willing to pay extra for quality. Your terms and conditions (T&C) also go on the pricing page. Some professional organizations, such as the British ITI and American ATA, offer templates their members can adapt and use as their own. Send the client your T&C when the client makes the order and let them know that your services are subject to your T&C, which will protect both you and the client in case of any disputes or complaints.
Ways of getting in touch with you typically also get their own, separate page. Visitors usually look for this information all the way to the right on your menu bar, so there’s no reason to put it anywhere else. Try to make sure that wherever they go on your website, visitors always have quick and easy access to your contact information. You don’t want them to have to go hunting for it. List all the ways clients can contact you, and don’t forget to include social media buttons, if you’re on social media.
You may want to include other pages as well, but that is entirely up to you. Some people put their blog – if you’re just starting it up, I would advise writing several posts in advance so you have a backlog before publishing, since posting regularly can sometimes be harder than it might seem. Some people have a separate page to post client references or showcase a portfolio with samples of their work. When putting your portfolio together, be very careful not to include any confidential client information. Unfortunately, due to frequent scammer activity it is not a good idea to put up a personal CV available for download.
And finally we have the mandatory information that every business website is required to post by law. Besides the website owner’s name and address (or business name and address, if applicable), the information required by Czech law, for instance, is the Business ID No., information on registration in the Commercial Register or Trade Licensing Register (including file number), and VAT ID, if you are registered for VAT. Failure to comply with this requirement is subject to a fairly substantial fine.
Translators often want to target clients outside their home country, and to do so, you will need more than one language version of your website. You can use a plugin for this that lets you translate any content you put up on your website. More on that next time, when we move on to website operation.
To be continued…