Monday, 28 February 2011

Development of Muti-Lingual Websites

As the internet reaches more people around the globe, even language barriers are being overcome; for easier communication and commerce convenience.

Having an English website is not bad; it is actually the “standard”. Hence, if you have an international based business, it is a benefit to open your website to different language translated versions.

Statistics said that 17.65% by population are English Speaking Countries (as of 2005, click here for reference). This means that if you have an English website, you are unlikely not reaching this 82.35% of the world populations. Even if we say it’s not a weakness for your site; Yet, to be able to make ways connecting with this 82.35% is absolutely an advantage.

There are different aspects to consider in developing a multi-lingual websites. First, usage of character set. The recommended standard character set code for a multi-lingual site is the Unicode Standard. This standard covers all the characters, symbols and punctuations available for multi-lingual environment. If you are using web developer tools such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft front page, you will see that they already auto-generating an HTML header tag in Unicode Standard compatibility. Check one new page and compare the HTML tag below:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

Secondly, tools to use. Unless you are knowledgeable of all the language versions you want and will not mind translating the contents word per word, you do not need this. Hence, having tools that have the capacity to translate texts into different languages will bring you lesser pains. There are some available tools online like Google Translate, Transparent and Yahoo BubleFish.

Third, font face. There are fonts that are not available for other languages. Therefore, better use simple fonts that you are sure have other languages versions; such are Tahoma, Cyrillic and various Arabic fonts.

Fourth, nature of language. English is normally written in left to right directions. If you originally have written your website in this direction, you need to consider reconstructing your CSS(Cascading Style Sheet) layout for languages that are oriented in right to left directions like Hebrew and Arabic.

Fifth, layout flexibility. As we discussed in the fourth point, language orientation may cause layout changes. That is, we need to check the flexibility of our website templates, whether the layout is changing as we convert from one language to another.  Also, the thickness and character numbers many affect your site structure; If you search online, mostly affected in this set up are the navigations.

Sixth, site URL and file names. For the sake of search engine visibility, you may keep the file and as well the URL names in English. As we are aware, English is still the standard language in the World Wide Web; that is, to prevent possible issues of search engines multi-lingual website handling, using English for URL and file names is still recommended.

Lastly, choosing the right hosting provider. Unless you do the backend of your website in English, choosing a hosting provider with multi-lingual capability is a must.

There are maybe other reasons that you might consider in developing a multi-lingual website, but being open to this set up is a sure benefit for future advancements.

What are your thoughts on multi language website.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /

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