Before Going International

The Gospel was given to be spread to all nations; so why not promote your church website internationally. Many churches are growing in popularity because they are sending out their sermons via podcasts, and people all over the globe are listening. However, there are several considerations you need to take into account before you start to expand your horizons.

Running your content through Google’s translation software does not mean you have an international / multi-language site. Many content management systems have translation tools, but there is so much more to it.

Images

While a translation tool will update all text on your site, it will often not touch the images. Thus if you have images with text in them; they will need to be updated for each language you intend to include on your site.

Color Associations

I could write an entire article about color psychology, but just be aware that certain colors have cultural significance. Some may have holy or religious connotations, such as green in Muslim cultures.

Text direction

If you choose to display in Arabic or Hebrew, then you will need to consider text that flows in the opposite direction. Not to mention that the entire flow of your site will seem awkward to those cultures. With left-to-right text flows, our eyes naturally gravitate to the top left part of the screen. Yet in cultures where their text flows right-to-left; it is the opposite. So before you launch a mission to reach out to an Arabic speaking population, consider this mirror opposite way of viewing web pages and text.

Text Size Changes

Not to pick on any language, but German is famous for amazingly long words. They typically combine words to create new ones, such as the infamous title “Danube steamship company captain” or in German, “Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän”. These compound words will undoubtedly break the few pixels you dedicated to a navigation element. You will need flexible layouts that accommodate these larger words and translations.

Cultural Nuances & Metaphors

A sermon series once preached at my church was titled “Elephant in the Room”. We in the area knew it meant it was dealing with difficult topics. Yet I believe that many international audiences would have trouble deciphering this, and would be wondering why there is a large mammal in the same room as the preacher. I later found out from the woman that signs the sermons that even our deaf audience members required explanation.

Action Item

Before considering your church website suited for an international audience, at least explore the points I brought up. Think how your site will translate and what may break in the design. Also, review your content to see what nuances would be lost when viewed through the lens of another language and culture. Then I encourage you to reach out to our brothers and sisters across the world and help them hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Photo courtesy of Rich Goatly

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.

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