4 Tips to write an effective translation brief for an e-commerce website


I am often asked the right extension and level of detail that should be included in a translation brief of an e-commerce site. I guess it all depends on how demanding is the company who orders the brief or the person in charge of writing such document. In my case, I like writing briefs with as much detail as possible. This way the translator can make informed language decisions. But, careful, more information does not necessarily mean many pages. In the particular case of transactional websites, the level of detail included in the translation brief is especially important. Due to the vast amount of content of these websites they are often translated by teams of translators. Therefore, this document is key to guarantee consistency across the translation of the website. 

In the following lines I am listing the points which, based on my experience, are necessary to include in a translation brief of a transactional web. 

1. Define your Target Audience. Who is the target audience of the website? The translator should be able to picture the reader of his/her texts. It is important to know who you are writing for and be able to picture him/her in your head. 

2. Define the Brand’s Tone of Voice. What is the brand’s tone of voice? The tone of voice embodies the personality, values and beliefs of a brand. And it must be the same across all channels. A well-defined tone of voice will help translators to convey the same tone in another language. The tone may be serious or fun, formal or informal, etc. For example, in Spanish, you can choose between (informal) or Usted (formal) depending on how you want to address your audience. This decision is key and the results will be very different depending on your choice. 

3. Establish some language conventions for the translation of Proper Nouns, Colours, Materials, Sizes and Metric Units. If the e-commerce site contains a catalogue of products with different brands you will have to use the same translation all the time. For instance, let’s say the catalogue includes some items from Star Wars. You will have to use the equivalent on the target language (if there is one) rather than switching from the English version to the local language version. Otherwise, it will be confusing for the consumer and counterproductive when searching for an item on this web. Same applies to colours. What if an item is from a not so obvious colour such as green, blue or yellow? What if the colour is Sage Green or Teal? My recommendation is always to create a glossary with a table of equivalences from day one. This way translators will stick to the established conventions.

4. Create a Table of Orthotypographic Equivalences. Uppercase, lowercase, italics, bold, quotation marks, apostrophe, percent sign, currency signs, comma, full stop, you name it. The use of orthotypographic signs changes from language to another. This is why is so important to establish how these elements will be translated in the target language. For example, the currency sign is placed either before or after the number. In Spanish, this sign goes after the number (25€)  and never before. This is a common mistake we find in some transactional websites. A table of equivalences will work as a reminder of orthotypographic equivalences and will help to avoid common errors.

What challenges have you come across when translating a transactional web? What instructions were missing from the translation brief?

If you have any comments please use the comments section below.

About me | I am an all-round international communication and marketing professional with expertise in translation, localisation, copywriting and content management, among other things. I help organisations to communicate effectively across languages and cultures. If there is anything I can help you with please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Leave a Reply