How to Translate your Startup Website the Lean Way

The power of translating and localizing a website is undeniable. This may be considered as a non-priority especially when trying to be lean about your development, but it needs to be done sooner rather than later.

I talked to a couple startups about their thoughts and success stories regarding localization. Phillipe Casorla, lead iOS developer at Lifesum mentioned how Russia has become one of their most engaged and profitable markets since they started offering an app version in that language. 

However, translation services for a page are expensive and not particularly easy to find. I ran a quick search today and found the first few results are $500+ plus for a medium sized website. Furthermore, handling multiple versions of the website in various languages can become tough very easily. 

For the launch of our presentation software Slidebean last week, we figured translation was an absolute necessity. While retaining good engagement metrics throughout our 6-month beta, we saw a huge boost of conversions, engagement and growth when we released the Spanish version of the site in March. This was particularly noticeable in Spain and Costa Rica, where we had assumed that an English-only platform was enough. 

As any startup, we tried to find the cheapest alternative available to do so. Here it goes. 


Handling multiple versions of the site with PhraseApp 


In our case, adding support for different languages in Slidebean was not a complicated task, technically speaking. Our application is built on top of the rockstar AngularJS framework, so really supporting different languages was just a matter of translating a bunch of JSON files.

Maintaining and keeping track of your language keys and texts, however, can become a big hassle very quickly. This is where PhraseApp comes to the rescue. It lets you keep a dictionary of locale strings, along with versioning, collaboration, and a whole set of useful features. Once you've uploaded all your strings, you can simply choose a new language, and start translating them. At all times you can tell which languages are ready, and which ones have pending translations. Finally, you can export your dictionary in any popular format you wish to; in our case, again, we just exported our files back to JSON files.

While PhraseApp offers their own professional translation service, a $0,06 per word rate would have brought our costs to around $300 for all languages. Instead, we turned to Fiverr. 


Fiverr, (almost) anything you want for $5


Fiverr is a freelancing site where sellers offer services for a flat $5 fee. You can get anything from logo and presentation design, to voice overs and random songs played out with your name on them.

I first came across Fiverr a couple years ago and figured we could afford $5 to try out their translation section. Rates are usually around 500 words for $5, so we picked seller carottaboschi for our Italian version. 

Instead of pasting our text into a spreadsheet for translation, we took advantage of the PhraseApp collaboration and created a visitor account for our provider; collaborator accounts are limited and can only edit the languages you define. This allowed them to scroll through our content and translate it according to context and to our notes. 

It worked marvelously. We had a French version of Slidebean in a couple days and it cost us less than $25, including the Fiverr and PhraseApp fees. We did the same thing for Portuguese and French, and expect to expand to more languages in the upcoming weeks.  

Prior to the launch, we paid a few extra Fiverr gigs to have someone run through the site in a specific language and let us know if everything was correct. PhraseApp allowed them to make changes and see them live by simply refreshing the site. 

For minor edits to Slidebean we also turn to Fiverr, especially considering we've developed a relationship with our translators. They are often willing to translate a few extra words for us cost free, knowing that larger edits will net them a new gig.