The role of languages in web development teams #InsideSaaS

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When building SaaS products for various markets, small web development teams can have a hard time dealing with language and culture differences.

One might think that for bootstrapped businesses, English landing pages are sufficient and as a result, other languages are overlooked. In this blog post, I’d like to advocate the opposite: the necessity of a multi-language strategy when building SaaS products.

Usersnap and LingoHub have teamed up to share the most helpful hints for taking your business to global success. This blog post is part of our #InsideSaaS series. Make sure to follow upcoming blog posts on Usersnap’s & LingoHub’s blog.

There’s more to it than English.

Did you know that English is only the 3rd most used language in the world?

Yes, that’s right. With about 1 billion speakers, Mandarin claims the top spot as the world’s most common language, followed by Spanish with about 400 million speakers and with English coming in at third with 335 million speakers.

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Coming from Western countries, we tend to believe that English is the only language we need to be concerned with. However, if you are looking to expand your business, a glimpse into Asian or South American countries will quickly tell you that there is more than one language.

English first.

Building a first prototype of your SaaS product, chances are high that you will start off using English as your prior language.

And that’s absolutely fine.

Although English has only 335 million native speakers, another 1.5 billion people know how to speak English at various levels of proficiency. With these numbers in mind, it’s perfectly fine to kick off the ground with an English-only product.

Benefits of a multilingual SaaS product

You may reach a point where a significant number of your customers are not familiar with English and will start asking for your product and features in their native language.

Usersnap reached that phase recently and we decided to expand our product and websites language-wise.

We started with translating our website feedback widget to just 15 languages and now we are already at 25.

I’ve collected some of the most interesting benefits we came across building a multilingual SaaS product.

Grow your business geographically

One of the biggest and probably the most important benefit of a multilingual product is accessibility. As stated in the introduction of this article, most people on this planet do not have English as their main language and probably do not speak English at all.

Having your software available in various languages enables you to grow your business geographically. Building and selling digital goods has never been easier. Being able to ship a digital good perfectly designed for different regions and markets enables you to scale your business.

The next time you talk with your marketing team, it might be a good idea to consider translating your product as an interesting growth hack ;)

Decrease entry barriers

A product designed for local markets will be more competitive than a global product not specifically designed to local demand.

This basically means that you can gain a competitive advantage by simply offering your SaaS product in various local languages.

This might not be a big thing for certain consumer products but in various B2B areas, language is a big barrier for people testing new products.

For complex products, it absolutely makes sense to remove every barrier possible. And for many people, English remains a barrier. The only way to lowering this entry barrier for people using your product is to translate your SaaS product.

On board new users

Providing a website available in local languages is one thing and probably one of the first things you’ll do when it comes to local strategies. However, it doesn’t stop there.

If you are able to approach new users and sign-ups in their local language, you are not only decreasing entry barriers. You are also improving the user onboarding of your product. onboarding-saas-product

Risks of multilingual SaaS products

Even with all the great benefits that come with multilingual web services, there are some risks and challenges you should not overlook when building a multilingual SaaS product.

The risk of no multilingual support

Especially as a small team, providing support for various languages can be quite a challenge.

People who are used to your Spanish website, Spanish product and Spanish onboarding will expect you to have a Spanish customer support. Outsourcing customer support might be a good short-term solution, but it won’t help you in the long run. We believe that customer support is one of the key drivers of growing your business and maintaining a great relationship with your customers.

You better be prepared for non-english speaking customers.

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Increase in complexity

Translating your website is easy. Translating your product could be a bit more challenging.

Adding user segments and filters and making sure that your customers receive the right email in the right language is the true challenge here. With every new language you add to your product, you’ll add a new layer of complexity to it as well.

Increase in resources

With an increase in complexity, you need to be aware that keeping all your multilingual systems running also requires more human resources than a single language SaaS product.

If you translate your SaaS product, it’s not a one time project. It is something that needs attention whenever you update your site, product or a simple feature.

How to translate your SaaS product

OK, so you reach the point of planning to translate your SaaS product? Great!

Here are a few tips on how to translate your SaaS product.

Automation vs. manual translation.

I guess we can agree that translations done automatically will never be perfect. There is just no translation service good enough to do that (yes, I am looking at Google Translate).

I think we can also agree that manual translations by human translators are still the best way to go to achieve high quality translation.

Excel Sheets vs. translation app: Managing translations more effectively

If you’re working with a local translation bureau or if you have some other translation service in place, you probably have a manual workflow based on excel sheets or even worse, Google Docs, in place.

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When the translation is being done by different people, it can become quite a mess. Keeping everything synced becomes even more impossible when dealing with more than two languages.

I have to admit that we’ve been there. When we started translating our product into different languages, we used a simple spreadsheet.

However, we soon realized that it’s really not the best and most efficient way to manage our translations.

SaaS translation services, like Lingohub, are offering some great solutions for these kinds of problems. After setting up Lingohub for our product, we sped up the workflow with our external translators. Giving them an easy-to-use interface for doing their job has become a true time saver for us and it saved us from sending more Google spreadsheets. lingohub-translation-service

Wrapping it up.

Sooner or later, you will start thinking about translating your SaaS product. When dealing with B2B customers, translating your service can be a real growth hack. While all these benefits may be good reasons to rush things, you should not forget to take the risks and challenges into consideration.

Luckily, there are already some great SaaS translation services out there that can help you manage and streamline your translation efforts.

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