Preparing content for web translations

Accessing content

It is important to determine how the translated information is to be accessed. The website may be intended for people to directly read or listen to information in their own language, or for service providers to find information on a client’s behalf.

Online access models

Determining who will access the website will help to decide which online access model is most appropriate.

Direct access

Navigation from the homepage to translated documents is available in languages other than English

Enables people to find the translated information for themselves.

Mediated access

For when navigation is in English only. Service providers or other English-speakers access the translated information on behalf of people who require it.

Dual access

Navigation is both in English and in the languages of translation. Labels for links and documents are in English and in the translated languages to enable both direct and mediated access to translations.

Considerations for different languages and audiences

Some languages can present challenges to achieving online accessibility and discoverability. Factors to consider when translating and deploying information in these languages include:

Linguistic diversity within languages. For example, some languages contain a large number of dialects which use different terminology

Literacy levels within a community that speaks a particular language

Lexical gaps. For example, there may not always be equivalent concepts or words in another language

Lack of style guides and information on typesetting and typography for certain scripts.

Using audiovisual content

Alternatives to written translations are available to cater for varying literacy needs and language requirements. It is important to understand the communication preferences of the target audience. For example, some people are unable to read the language they speak. Also, some languages are rarely displayed in their written form and are largely oral. In these instances, audiovisual content may be more effective.

To meet accessibility requirements, audiovisual content, including any English language transcripts, will also require translation by a NAATI credentialed translator.

Translated content may be either written subtitles or spoken (over-dubbing).

Audiovisual material can be expensive to produce so it is important to identify which communities would most benefit from this type of delivery format.

Culturally appropriate content and design

Check any images and content associated with multilingual information to ensure these are appropriate. If in doubt consult relevant community organisations for advice.

Consider that some symbols and expressions used in Australia may not be familiar to new migrants and refugees. For example, images of parking signage such as ‘no standing’ and ‘clearway’ zones could require additional explanation.

Additional material for translation

In addition to the main content, other material to be translated may include:

  • introductory text
  • title of documents
  • alternative text for images
  • words and phrases needed for navigation
  • document metadata
  • accessibility, copyright, and privacy statements
  • contact information
  • audio transcripts and video scripts
  • video closed captioning or subtitling

All material to be translated needs to be thoroughly identified. The additional material will form part of the brief to the translator.

Quality control for translated content

All content to be translated needs to be carefully checked before it is submitted to a translator. It needs to be clear, concise, appropriate, and accurate.

When briefing a language services provider or translator ensure to:

  • specify that translations will be used on a website and will need to be in Unicode
  • ask the language services provider to perform a final check of the translations after these are loaded onto the website
  • consider technical needs

When preparing multilingual content for the web, consider:

  • the translated information may take up more or less space than the English text. Text expansion and reduction should be taken into account when creating the design template for the publication. Consult with both the language service provider and the digital team for advice on space requirements
  • translations may involve languages that do not use spaces to delineate words. Web browsers are inconsistent with line breaking for such languages. It may be necessary to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Javascript to improve line-breaking for some languages
  • translations may entail bi-directional scripts. Bi-directional text (known as bidi) contains information that runs both left-to-right, and right-to-left. It generally involves text containing different types of alphabets. Some content management systems, or the templates they use, need to be adapted to enable such scripts to display correctly
  • the format in which translations should be provided (HTML or MS Word files)
  • whether both HTML and MS Word files (or the less accessible PDF files) should be used to enable printing content from the site
  • formats for multimedia content

Website navigation

Websites should provide clear navigation from the home page to the translated content. To ensure that content is accessible and user-friendly:

  • multilingual content should be in HTML rather than, or in addition to, MS Word or PDF format. Using HTML allows search engines to locate the information in a language other than English
  • ensure both the language and publication title is included in English at the beginning of the translation for easy identification and to assist with distribution of printed versions
  • include navigation to both the English version and the non-English translation on the same page
  • the English language sitemap should provide an index of translations by language

Language selection features

A language selector should be a prominent design element on the website. If the language selector is not included on the initial viewport, a navigation link to the language selector (such as the ‘in your language’ logo) should be available on the site’s masthead across the site.

To search for target languages easily when navigation is in English only, link labels to translated documents should be made bilingual i.e. in the target language and English.

The site should also use user friendly URLs (in English), with the language name included in the URL. For example:

Interpreter symbol

The Interpreter symbol was designed to show where someone can ask for language assistance. It provides a simple way to help people with low English proficiency access government services. The symbol indicates that a person with low English proficiency can ask for help to communicate in their own language.

This symbol can be used on a website to link to information about accessing or using an interpreter phone service, or other advice about communicating with a department or agency in a language other than English.


Metadata summarises information about a webpage, MS Word or PDF file.

The web access model should determine the language that relevant metadata should be in. For example, for:

  • websites based on the direct access model, metadata should be translated
  • the mediated access model, metadata should be in English
  • a dual access or a bilingual page, metadata should be provided in both English and the other language

Further information on improving website access and navigation is in the Technical Notes section of these guidelines.