Yet again, a Google change brings a minor (at this time) shakeup to the world of web development and user experiences. This time, the change comes in from Google yet again shutting down a service that has existed since August 2006: an embed of the Google Translate feature into websites.
Before January 2019, web developers and designers such as us were able to embed Google Translate into websites, offering a multi-language translation option, simply by adding a plugin into the website code. With this feature, users could simply select a desired language of their choice from a preset language drop down menu and have the entire website automatically translate.
The service itself wasn’t perfect, as it often missed or misinterpreted the nuances of various languages. However, as a whole, it worked well enough to allow non-English speakers (in our case) to be able to browse and interact with the website regardless of their native language.
Google’s decision to stop offering this service doesn’t come unprecedented. Over the years, they have been offering/incorporating an auto Google Translate feature into their Chrome browser. In this instance, individual users can select all web browsing to be displayed in their language of choice, thereby eliminating the need for individual website owners to offer the service on their own.
From the technical standpoint, yes, the difference between embedding the code and a user using their own browser preferences doesn’t seem that different. However, from the general knowledge and marketing standpoint, the difference is vast:
First of all, not all individuals are aware of the translate feature within their browsers. I would guess that many individuals using computers and websites struggle enough with the daily upkeep and stress of standard browsing, much less spending time converting their entire website browser setting to their native language.
The goal of a non-native speaker is not necessarily to eliminate all interaction with the website’s native language. But instead, allow them the option of assistance when they struggle with interpretation or translation of specific words or text.
Secondly, if the goal of an individual company is to engage with non-English speaking individuals, allowing those users an easy way to select their language of choice while browsing their websites provides a clear and welcoming message to these users.
In our instance, most of our customers who operate their business in the Unties States set out to offer employment and business opportunities to non-native English speakers and choose to embed Google Translate with their language options. Outside of technical considerations this speaks volumes in being able to connect with non-English speakers with the website on a different level, allowing them a welcoming feeling of acceptance.
Of course, as technologies change, grow, and adapt, all companies, including Google, should and do evaluate their ongoing service offerings and stop and start services to suit their changing business model. However, at times, these decisions are made purely from budgetary and profitability goals, and at times dismiss the human interaction standpoint of the service offered.
Google in their statement announced that they will continue to offer support for existing websites that use the Google Translate embed plugin. But, as we all know, any interruptions or changes to existing services usually indicates a complete sunset of the service in the near future.