Building a multi language website with Wordpress & WPML
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Who needs a multi language website? Any business or organisation, that communicates with other markets or with foreign customers on its own market.
What is a multilingual website?
A website that has two or more language versions. Each of them should be browsable standalone, meaning all links and menus should point to information in the same language.
In a multilingual website the content may be mirrored between languages or could be different for every language. If mirrored, every page in the main language (ex. English) will exist for the other language versions. Sometimes the information for users on other markets, should be different than the one for the home market. A typical exemple are small and medium size businesses, that don’t have the capacity to deliver all their services or to launch all their products overseas. In this case the related language versions should provide adapted information.
Historically there were many solutions for websites in multiple languages. In the past, the simplest yet extremely difficult to manage approach was to install the same site several times in separate directories or subdomains. Each installation was then translated in one language. Such a structure was a nightmare for webmasters. They had to support several websites, and face many issues while trying to assure seamless user experience – global login and shopping cart integration, cross-domain cookies, etc.
Some of the popular CMSs started to integrate partial multilingual functionality. In 2007 Joomla introduced built-in multiple language management and Zen Studio was deploying it for the multilingual websites developed at that time (ex. Industrial Parts).
Today, modern content management systems like Magento, OpenCart and WordPress allow much more flexible and holistic language control. The widely used WordPress CMS has probably the most advanced translation management capability. It is added through a commercial plugin – WPML.
Why WordPress and WPML?
Simply because it is a complete and easy to administrate multi lang solution for small to midsize websites. WPML translates everything while empowering all built-in WordPress features even more – easy SEO optimisation, enhanced content management, 3rd party plugins and design freedom.
What does it mean to translate everything? It means WPML makes it possible to translate all user created content (pages, posts, categories, menus), but also the interface, including the theme, the metas and the friendly URLs, images’ “alt” descriptions, widgets, plugins, taxonomies etc.
WPML does have its own translation management and is tracking all website components for non-translated strings. In this way you can easily keep-up with your language versions, when you add a functionality or after a system update.
SEO and SEO copywriting are the key success factors for any website. WPML provides on-page and on-site optimisation tools for websites in multiple languages:
- Language URL formats in directories (ex. yoursite.com/fr for French, yoursite.com/de for German, etc.) or in subdomains (ex. fr.yoursite.com for French, de.yoursite.com for German, etc.)
- Contextual friendly URLs for pages (ex. yoursite.com/about for English, yoursite.com/fr/a-propos for French, etc.)
- Separate meta title and description per language
- Multilingual alt descriptions for images
- Declaration of language codes (ex lang=”fr_FR”). In this way Google knows what market the page is for.
- Sitemap per language (with additional plugin)
Different functionality per language
Sometimes you may want different functionality for different markets. With WPML, this is possible by using language conditionals. Simply put, it is possible that the functionality of the English part of the site is different from that of the French or German part. For example, for Physiodermie’s website, our client wanted to activate the online store functionality only for the Swiss version and deactivate it for the English and French versions (which work in an online catalog mode).
What type of websites is this solution for?
Theoretically, WordPress and WPML could power a website with unlimited number of pages, blog posts or products in two, three or more languages. In reality it will very much depend on your hosting, the plugin functionality used and on the number of database requests. For a cheap shared hosting it becomes tricky to run more than two language versions. If you need 3 or more languages, language conditionals and/or Woocommerce online store, get a virtual server in order to assure performance under traffic.
Is this reliable solution for global corporate websites? The short answer is no. Global websites have dozens of language versions and manage subsidiaries access control to their localized web content. There are more elegant and ergonomic solutions for this type of projects.
Those limitations give you an idea what type of sites is possible to build with WordPress and WPML. The ideal application is for centrally managed small to medium business or e-commerce websites with 2 to 5 language versions.
How much does it cost to build a multilingual website?
Zen Studio’s quotation will depend on many variables that should be discussed during a brief. Those are web design, site volume, copywriting, imagery, specific functionality needed, etc. Hereafter you can see our starting prices for multi language web projects.
|Prices for multilingual web site||w/o VAT|
|Multilingual business website||from $1500|
|Multilingual online store||from $3500|
|Prices include front UI and backend design and configuration. Prices don’t include copywriting, imagery and hosting costs.|
WordPress and WPML is a powerful platform for building modern multilingual websites. It allows to shorten the development time by using all the great features provided by WordPress CMS and to easily manage multilingual content. It fits best with small and midsize businesses needs.
Zen Studio is specialising in WordPress webdesign. We have deep knowledge in this CMS and we enjoy developing with it. We can also help with SEO copywriting in English, French and Bulgarian. Hire us.