Multilingual Website Development
There are nowadays multiple marketing strategies aimed at different target audiences, age groups, social strata, etc. that help your business be on the crest of the wave. These strategies tend to touch upon all spheres of modern life, especially those that currently surround us on a daily basis. One of such spheres is without a doubt the global network. It breaks the borders between nations and, what is more, between people all around the world. It builds the so-called horizontal model of the ancient Babel Tower, reaching out not to the sky, but to the people. However, It enables communication in different languages and unites people with a common aim.
To deliver this aim to the audience in the other country or in the other part of the globe, translation as a mediator is needed. Translation acts as a tool for spreading information, while the global network acts as a transmitter with websites being the ‘collectors’ of material on a certain topic. This strategy of information sharing works very well at present, especially for the fast pace of business world interaction. But what are the technological complexities of the process and how to handle them? What are the solutions for successful operation of fitting multilingual content to the web? Plone as one of the most widely used and multi-faceted CMSes provides some good solutions to the problems under discussion and we shall try to consider them in this article.
How does a multilingual website work?
So, what’s that - a multilingual website - from the point of view of a simple user? When browsing the net to find some specific information, say, concerning the opportunities of studying in...Finland, you would normally expect to have at least the English translation of the Finnish university website, but when someone is interested in the same information and does not know a single word in English, s/he would most probably expect to find the translation into the native tongue. If several translations of a website are available, it can be considered multilingual.
But have you ever thought about any preliminary stages of making this website multilingual? Of course, the first thing that comes to our mind is translation. It is a basic and very important step towards building your multilingual website, but it’s far from being the only one. On getting the content of your website translated, the next step is to localize or optimize it to the needs and rules of the target audience. For instance, some abbreviations, measurements, or even colours that might symbolize something of importance to you sometimes need to be changed according to the widely accepted norms of the target language (e.g. in some of the Asian countries white colour symbolizes ‘death’ in contrast with the generally accepted black colour to symbolize it in most of the other nations). Thus, localization of content on your website is another step.
Once you have translated and localized your content, you should then bring this ready-to-use text to the IT company that manages the project of building your website. The IT company is usually in charge of the technical and design-related issues concerned with developing your website. It also manages content and, correspondingly, fits multilingual translations to the website. As you might probably not even guess, this is a very copious and challenging task. Plone, one of the leading open source CMS, suggests some of the most user-friendly and effective solutions to the problems that might arise.
Suppose you’re a simple user reading this article now, you would probably come up with the question - what could be the problems? Let’s find out.
Multilingual Issues and Plone Solutions
The following problems might arise:
- RTL languages (Right-to-Left), like Arabic or Persian that demand special right-to-left formatting of content. Moreover, it is very difficult for a content manager not knowledgeable in this language to fit RTL text to the web. It requires maximum attention, focus and excellent command of the CMS (in our case Plone);
- some of the languages might demand more space for some messages, e.g. one word in one language might need two or three words in another language, which should of course be taken into account by content managers;
- the usability is No. 1 on the scale of important features of the multilingual website - the URLs should be arranged in the most user-friendly way (better if it contains the shortname of the language of translation - e.g., en, es, it, fr, ru, uk).
NB! The content of websites is dynamic, so it needs updating with time and content managers should be immediately informed about that, the translations should be provided and so on - the whole process involves many people and many efforts, so it needs to be well-organized from scratch!
In addition to this, there are certain other features that might be not so much obvious to simple users, but in fact they greatly facilitate the work of content managers or IT specialists involved in building your website.
There are two Plone packages that provide multilingual functionality to the Plone websites:
- Products.LinguaPlone (for Plone =< 4.1, Archetypes)
- plone.app.multilingual (for Plone > 4.1, Archetypes or Dexterity)
We recommend to use plone.app.multilingual (PAM), since it can be used for newer Plone versions and can work with the Dexterity content types. This package represents next generation Plone multilingual engine and provides unified user-friendly UI for the content translation management. See more detailed information about usage of this product in our Tutorial on how to work with plone.app.multilingual.
If you decide to use LinguaPlone, then our Tutorial on how to use LinguaPlone package will help you to learn how to manage and maintain multilingual content that integrates seamlessly with Plone.
Most important and efficient features of multilingual products:
- ability to create separate folders for each of the languages of translations involved in the project and to have corresponding shortnames (the function has already been previously mentioned in the article) that enables to manage content separately for each language;
- ability to switch to the other language irrespective of the article you’re currently reading (or managing);
- ability to have separate folders for each of the website section (and each of the languages);
- SEO-friendly URLs for each of the languages;
- change of the language of interface (links like Log in) depending on the language of the document;
- ability to easily switch the language and establish connections between translation of one and the same document;
- several other suggestions concerning language switching (drop-down menu or flags, though the first option is better owing to language and country-specific reasons)
The question of multilingual SEO is extremely complex and involves many different aspects. In fact, it is so complex that could even embrace a separate article to define all its nuances, features and up-to-date suggestions. But we shall try to briefly analyze what its means and how it is connected with our topic.
Of course, multilingual SEO touches upon two major points - multilingual websites and search engine optimization (SEO). We have already discussed the question of multilingual websites above, while the term SEO was used in describing one of the multilingual Plone website features that consist in its ability to have SEO-friendly URLs for each of the languages. Two things combined, multilingual SEO ensures the ability of the search engine to recognize multilingual content of your website.
Plone with its multilingual product enables this feature by means of providing the possibility to change the URL independently taking into account both what YOU need and what the search engine needs. You can first employ any of the SEO strategies that you consider to be most efficient in your case, find out what you need to include in your URL for it to appear on the first positions of search results in a given country and then simply change the URL of the article you are interested in. Moreover, after the URL of your document has been successfully changed into a new one or the whole document has been moved to another place, Plone enables redirecting from the old URL to the new one. There is also a wonderful possibility in Plone to keep the content for each language of translation on separate URLs. In case of non-Latin characters (say, Cyrilic or Arabic), you may use UTF-8 encoding. All of these multilingual package features contribute to multilingual SEO.
Quintagroup Multilingual Cases
Quintagroup has already gained experience in building multilingual websites in the previous cases under the titles Offshore Company, Lviv Apartments and the most recent project with the GeaBox website. You can have a closer look at the detailed description of these cases and find out more about our implementation of multilingual products.
We can assure you that we are working individually with each client, taking into account the strengths of the product, as well as its weaknesses that we are trying to compensate for by means of our team’s own ideas concerning each issue.
Do not hesitate to contact us whenever you have decided on fitting multilingual content to your website. Quintagroup experts together with Plone multilingual solutions will help you with this challenging task!