October 21, 2016
Managing Multilingual Content: Versions v. Clones & Translation

Did you know that a visitor is more likely to stay twice as long on your website if it's in their language? Or that they are four times more likely to purchase if website content is in their language?

If your audience is spread across the globe or serves customers in multiple languages within a single country, then you need a multilingual website. So how do you support this need to have content in multiple languages? 

First, you need a good web content management platform. Then you need a good translation management system. And then you need to integrate the two tightly.  

How a Web CMS Manages Multiple Languages

There is more than one way to manage multiple languages in a Web CMS: clones and versions. Which one you choose depends on how you like to manage your website overall from a technical perspective.

Clones: Multilingual website management using clones is relatively straightforward. You start with a master page and you "clone" additional web pages from that master page. Each clone is a different language or region. When you update the master web page, a notification is sent to the owner of each clone to let them know the content has changed and they need to update their view of the content. Page properties contain links that connect each version of a page, enabling you to track sources and localized content.

Landguage-Based Versions: In some Web content management systems each language is a version of the original page. Using this approach, you have to create each web pages in the original language (typically English), and then for each additional language you want to offer, you create a version of the page for that language. Using versions for languages means that you always have to create content in the primary language first. It also means that you can't have different content for different languages.

Integrating Translation Management Systems with Your CMS

You could manually translate content for your site, but it takes time, requires internal translation resources you may not have, and it's prone to error. Integrating with a translation management provider ensures your content is efficiently and appropriately translated.

Jean-Francois Lariviere, Business Development Manager from Venga, a translation and localization management provider, recently presented at the 2016 Ingeniux User Conference offering "10 Tips for Taking Your Website Around the World." 

Lariviere suggested that you plan your translation in tiers: 

  1. Do you want or need to translate the whole site or only parts of it: 
    1. Define the necessary pages / levels 
    2. Define content 
    3. Select which countries / regions are to be targeted 
    4. Define which languages are required 
    5. Define which products / services will be offered in which region
  2. Do you want or need to localize the site all at once or can you roll out sections / languages over time?

Once you have defined the levels and tiers, create a content matrix that maps tiers and levels, to languages and website sections.

Lariviere also outlined some important considerations when translating your content. It's not a direct one-to-one translation in many cases. He said you need to analyze elements for cultural appropriateness, including things like numbers and dates, colors, culturally local expressions, calls to action and brand specific expressions. 

SEO translation is not also a direct translation. You will need to research each country to know if the direct translation is what people in that country search for, or if something different is required.

One final point of interest is related to sending content for translation. Do you want each change sent immediately? This would ensure your different language sites are always in sync with your main site, but it can also mean higher translation costs. For some, it may make more sense to send translations in batches which will reduce costs and tends to produce faster turnaround times, according to Lariviere. 

You can see all of Lariviere's tips in this presentation: 10 Tips for Taking Your Website Around the World, which was originally presented at the Ingeniux User Conference 2016.

Careful Planning is Required

The decision to have a multilingual web experience is driven by your business focus and your customer base. Once it's clear you need to support multiple languages, then you have to look at how your Web CMS can support that. What approach works best for you from the options above and can your CMS provide that option? 

How does your CMS integrate with translation management providers? Is the integration tight, making it a seamless process to request new translations ad hoc or in batches? Or is there a manual step that can result in time delays and potential translation mistakes?

One last statistic to leave you with. Did you know that only 3.5 countries of 18 with the highest e-commerce penetration use English as their main language? You need to show your customer that you understand them. Language is one way to do just that.  

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