5 must-have elements to include on your bilingual website

Nowadays, every business and non-profit should have a website. This is a must to promote their products, services or a cause. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, many have had to quickly create a brand-new website, while others had to update their existing one to be able to take orders and payments online. This has become crucial to the survival of their business in the last year.

While having a website has become necessary, if your company or organization is based in Québec, by law, your website needs to be available in French. As stated in Article 52 of the Charter of the French Language (commonly known as Bill 101), the website of companies with an address in Québec must be at least as complete in French as it is in English. Failure to comply can lead to fines ranging from $600 to $20,000! That’s a hefty price to pay!

Also, by having a unilingual website, you are missing out on opportunities to attract more clients. For example, if you make beautiful hand-crafted soaps and have a transactional website that makes it possible for people to order your soaps online, but your website is only in English, you are only selling to anglophone clients. However, if this website is also available in French, you can now attract and sell to francophones. Increase your impact! Increase your sales!

The same goes for your non-profit organization. Posting bilingual content on your website will attract more donors, which, in turn, increases the odds of success of your fundraising campaigns.

All this being said, what should your bilingual website include?

I’m a big fan of Donald Miller and his “Building a Story Brand” method (and book). His approach encourages you to invite your audience into a story and to, above all, keep it simple! In his words, “Today, your website should be the equivalent of an elevator pitch. Your website is likely the first impression a potential customer will receive about your company. It’s almost like a first date.”

Here are a few takeaways from his method and how these can be applied to your organization:

Have an offer above the fold: The fold refers to the stories printed above where a newspaper folds in half. On a website, it’s what you see and read before you start scrolling. This is where you would insert your tagline. This message should be brief, inviting and focused on your audience. For example, my client, Starlight Canada’s tagline is “Helping children smile. Helping families cope.” This summarizes who they serve and what they do and encourages you to scroll down to find out more.

Include calls to action: These could be “Buy Now”, “Donate Now”, “Book a Free Consultation”, etc. A call to action is just that, a call for your audience to take action, to take the next step in their “story” with you. For example, my client at Aid to the Church in Need Canada has a prominent “Donate” button at the top right section of their website.

Show Images of Success. Your website should include images of smiling, happy people. If your organization works in schools, then pictures of students and teachers should appear on your website. Success should also be showcased through 3-4 testimonials of clients satisfied with your business or participants in your organization’s programs.

Provide a simple breakdown of your services, programs or products: For example, if you scroll to the Services section of my website, you will see that I offer “À la carte” translation services and “FLEX Translation Packages”. You then have the option to click on Find out more buttons, to do exactly that.

Finally, are you making the story about you or about the customer or donor? Too often, I see websites where every sentence starts with words like “We”, “I”, “Our”. To be blunt, “No one cares about what you do!”. What people care about is “What’s in it for them”. As Donald Miller mentions, “The customer simply needs to know that you have something they want, and you can be trusted to deliver whatever that is.” In other words, focus on what results you can help them to achieve. Try to keep it short and sweet and add “read more” buttons to encourage visitors to find out more.

What about your contact page, an FAQ section, a blog, news or press release section? Do you need those on your website? These are also important and will be featured in another article.

You like this article? You have comments? Please post them below and enter a draw to win a copy of Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand book.


1 Comment
  • Melanie Kis
    Posted at 17:57h, 04 May Reply

    Thank you Julie for once again a great blog post. I am in the works of putting my work in for a webiste and not long ago I was thinking of only having it in English. I am so glad I came to the realization that having a webite in both French and English is the way to go. And reading about being fined for not having your site in French as a Quebec resident, I had no idea. Thanks for the tip!

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