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Toronto-based boutique agency specializing in web design and development, identity and print design.
Oct 2

Bilingual – Not just for French/English websites

We’ve just launched our first bilingual English/Chinese website! Lawyers Swales and Wei contracted us to design and launch to support their growing practice which serves both the English and Chinese community in the GTA.

Our Research – what’s out there?
At the start of any project we look for benchmark sites – sites from the same industry that we want compete with in terms of design, functionality and user experience. Looking for Chinese language sites in the legal profession with a clean, crisp look and feel (the client’s wishes) left us empty handed. Is this an untapped niche market?

How to treat sites with language options.
There are two basic options when considering how to handle multilingual websites.

1. Have your site visitor decide which language they prefer on a splash page before continuing to the homepage. This is the option we went with for with


2. Have the site default to one language and offer the site visitor the option to switch languages at any time – usually with a clearly labelled language button, dropdown or flag. This option works best if the content and structure is mirrored between the languages and the majority of users are of one language.

Display Characters
One issue with character-based languages is that a user’s computer needs to be able to display those characters. And therefor our testing computers in the studio also needed to be able to read those characters. Since UTF-8 is becoming standard protocol for web pages we did not need to utilize language options still often used in China.

If you can find a fully bilingual design firm that can still provide the level of quality and service you need in your specific languages, that’s great. But its also not necessary and often not possible. There will always be challenges when working with a language you can’t speak or read but with a clearly structured copy document provided by the client, this shouldn’t matter.