Nobody likes doing a currency conversion when buying something. People also enjoy shopping in their own language. 76% of people like to shop in their own language and another 40% would never buy anything from a store if it uses another language. But you probably knew this already. If you operate in a multilingual market like the EU, then you know how important offering your site in multiple languages can be.

The challenge is presenting your language options in a way that is both easily discoverable, helpful, and aesthetically pleasing.

1. Use the IP address and browser defaults

This is the most seamless way. If the browser language is German, then display your site in German. This is less disruptive than things like splash pages. The IP address can also be a good signaler of the user’s preferred language.

If someone is accessing your site from France, then it’s a good practice to show that person the French version of your site. The IP address is not the end-all. Multilingual countries exist (Switzerland for example). There are also places with a large expatriate populations that may not speak the language of the nation they reside in (think Qatar, the UAE, or Monaco). For this reason, the IP address should be used in conjunction with the browser language for better default language selection.

2. Put the default language in the header, not the footer

This is just for ease of access. If you default to a language and have a multilingual setup, show the default language in the header in full. Avoid abbreviations. They don’t translate well.

That way, a user who wants to change it can easily do so instead of having to scroll through a whole page to find language options in the footer. Language options in the footer only work if it’s a short single page like the Google homepage. The golden rule is to minimize scrolling for something as essential as the language selector.

3. Show language options as links, not dropdowns.

You probably aren’t giving your users 100 language options and you probably shouldn’t. Even splintered and multilingual Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. Other multilingual nations tend to have two or three. Those with more tend to have a single language that everyone uses. South Africa, for example, has eleven official languages but people just use English.

4. Use endonyms, not exonyms

Languages have different names in different languages. For example, the language spoken in Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, parts of Luxembourg, and most of Switzerland is called German in English. The French call it Allemagne, and the native speakers call their own language Deutsche.

In this case, Deutsche is the endonym while Allemagne and German are the exonyms (in English and French). Because exonyms change from language to language and the average person will probably not know them all, always use endonyms in your language selectors to minimize confusion.