Ten Major Tips to Develop a Multilingual Web Site to Work

If you are living in a country that its native language is something rather than English language, then you may like to develop your website to offer content in the language of your own country.

There are millions of websites on the Internet that are all in English language but there are billions of people on the earth that speak in a different language and are not familiar with English language.

However, most of the Internet users are basically familiar with English language and could use the Internet but there are many subjects that are hard to understand for those people whom their language is not English.

One example is websites related to pharmaceutics. There are tons of very difficult to understand phrases in the content. The other example is educational websites that basically should provide content in the local language not English language.

You may have many clients and business partners that wish to read your sales copy and product information in their own language.

So, having a website that provides the content in a language rather than English language is necessary for you. Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Dutch, France and many other languages are general samples of most used languages on the Internet. For you to start a multilingual website, it is vital to consider some tips before starting to design and develop your websites:

1- The Code Page

The best code page that you should choose for your web pages is Unicode. Unicode is a kind of numeric presentation of characters that is two bytes and so can contain up to 65535 characters to show. Until now, there have been no human being languages in the universe that have had more than these much characters. So, by using Unicode, you are able to show all characters of your language. To represent your web page as a Unicode page, add below line of code in the head part of your page:

2- Tools For Development

For creating web pages in Unicode format, you should have a tool to be able to type in your language. One of the tools that are widely used by web developers is Microsoft Front Page.

If this tool is installed on Windows XP then you have the most powerful set of software to create Unicode documents. FrontPage is a WYSIWYG tool for creating web pages and you can easily choose the language of your web page in options of the page and appropriate HTML tags would be automatically inserted in the code.

3- Nature of the Language

If your language is Right-To-Left like many of Asian and Middle East languages, for example, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew, you should tune your operating system to be able to switch from Left-To-Right to Right-To-Left typing method to be able to type from Right and from Left. If you are a Microsoft Windows user, you can configure your system for multiple languages and keyboards, each of them having different kind of input methods. For example, you can add Farsi as the second language of your Windows and then switch from English to Farsi by pressing a combination of keys and start typing in Farsi. Also switching from RTL to LTR would be possible by another key combination.

4- Navigation and Design Considerations

Some languages force to apply some changes in the design and navigation of your website. For example, if you have a vertical menu bar, you may put it in the left of your pages for English pages and in the right for Arabic pages because Arabic is a RTL language and people are used to start reading pages from right to left. However this is not a rule, but it is better to consider it in designing pages.

Other issue is the entrance page. If your website is in two languages, you may add an entrance page that makes client choose the navigation language of your website. This page could be a very nice graphical page with two options for choosing desired language and then enters the web site in that language. In some cases, you may consider one language as the base and eliminate entrance page. In this case, you assume most of the visitors may use a language that is dominant and they enter automatically the web pages of your web site that are in that language. However, visitors would see a small icon in web pages that lets them switch to the other language.

Other method is to use IP2Country services that can find the country of the visitor from its IP address and by adding some simple dynamic code to your pages, you would be able to switch to the language of the visitor. However, this method is not %100 accurate and you should consider some percent of fault in recognizing the country of the visitor.

5- Font Face Considerations

When you are creating your web pages in a language rather than English, you would be limited in using font faces. There are a few font faces in windows that are installed automatically and can show multilingual characters. If you like your visitors view your pages correct without any need to install fonts, you have to use those minor number of multilingual fonts. One of the best font faces is Tahoma that is somehow easy to read and contains all Unicode characters also is included in Windows.

6- Database Driven Web Sites

If your web site is a database driven and you have forms that clients may fill and be posted to database, there would be lots of very technical issues that you should consider to be able to collect and retrieve data in different languages. This part is beyond the aims of this article.

7- Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a major issue for multilingual web sites and you should be aware that not necessarily all major search engines and directories handle multilingual web pages perfectly and your web site may not be listed in many of them. Google is a search engine that indexes multilingual web pages too. However there are some issues and difficulties but it works well enough for your web site to be indexed in your language.

8- Domain Name

No matter in which language is your web site, the domain name of your web site should be in English because at this time, having a domain name in other language is not a very easy thing to have and multilingual domain names are a new issue and is under development. There are some solutions but are not yet set perfectly. So, I suggest you forget those solutions and choose an English name for your web site.

9- Web Server And Hosting

However major web servers, like Microsoft IIS and Apache both support multilingual web pages, but I strongly recommend you to ask the hosting company for this issue and make yourself sure that there wont be problems for your web pages to be served by the hosting company.

10- Name Web Site Files

Never use Unicode characters in the name of your web pages. However your operating system, like Windows, lets your choose the file names in Unicode characters but be %100 sure that theses web pages would have serious difficulties both server side and client side.

In many cases, you won’t be able even to upload your web pages to your host space and client’s browsers also won’t be able to recognize the name of page and would generate error. This is true for name of images, flash files, scripts and other pages. Just use English names.

However I have tried to cover major issues in developing multilingual web sites but this issue is something that needs experience and you should yourself discover many of new issues that are not included in this article.

Linux Vs Windows Web Hosting Servers

Most of the time when working in web development there will be two types of operating systems for a web server, Linux and Windows. When you hear Linux Server and Windows Server, you are just hearing the different operating systems the server will be running. This can be a big deal if you have certain expectations. Usually you will have one main question, which one is better? There really isn’t an answer to this. It is more on the developer and what he is trying to accomplish.

Operating System Common Features

There are a few common features both Windows and Linux will provide. One is how you transfer your files. Both Windows and Linux support FTP access to edit, delete or transfer files. Both operating system can render some of the same file types. HTML (.html) and JavaScript (.js) are both commonly used on both platforms. You can also run CGI in Linux and Windows. CGI is an application that is similar to writing in Perl or C#. This can help with forms and dynamic content, usually used with shopping carts. MYSQL Database and PHP can run on both Linux and Windows, but these two web development languages are more common on Linux.

Linux Operating System Server

Linux Web Hosting is probably the most used server operating system in the market. Most developers love Linux because it is open source and will support PHP and MySQL perfectly. The plus side of all of these great features is that Linux, PHP and MySQL is all FREE! They cost nothing and are all open source applications.

PHP and MySQL can be coded together to make anything possible. PHP can run on different platforms like Windows, but most of the time it is ran through Linux. They use the same tags and attributes as HTML, but you can include functions and scripts to be ran on the server side. Making Dynamic pages that will pull data, insert data, or modify data in a MySQL table. PHP can also support different tables such as Oracle, Sybase, Solid, PostgreSQL, Generic ODBC.

Linux Top Advantage – FREE & Open Source!

Windows Operating System Server

Should you go with Windows? It really matters on what coding language you are going to develop with and what your end goal of your project is. Most Web Developers will code PHP and MySQL on a Linux Server. Some have moved to ASP coding language that is only supported on a Windows Server. ASP coding is a very universal coding language.

Windows Web Hosting has become more and more popular as web developers look into ASP. ASP is a server coding language that is only supported on a Windows Server. ASP stands for Active Server Pages which is a free component with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It can also be found in the Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack.

ASP coding language is a lot like a HTML file. This will contain different tabs and attributes as HTML or XML. What makes ASP different from HTML is that the request is read through the server and executes the ASP function or script of the file. ASP can run coding languages that are similar to computer programming languages. ASP can link to different database languages.

Windows Top Advantage – Easier to Config

Security Issues and Concerns

One quick thought about both Linux and Windows servers is which is better for security. Security is one of your biggest concerns when having a website and even more when you have an ecommerce store. The sad thing about this topic is that it is an argument that will never be solved. It all comes down to if the hacker wants in or not. They both have security problems. The best way to prevent anything from happening is having a good web administrator or a good web hosting company. Having one or both of these will keep your mind at ease.

Which Web Operating System is Better?

Looking at some of the features, neither is better than the other. There are just some advantages and disadvantages of both. Finding what your website needs is the decision maker. Windows or Linux can both be used for your advantage. Some web developers love to use one or the other because of what they are used to. Some web developers only use one or the other because of the coding language they will be using. Remember there are pros and cons to both, but a website is made by the web developer, not the operating system.

Web Site ROI & Project Delivery

Generating a return on investment (ROI) from your web site should be an easy affair. Gone are the days of a brochure based web site whereby the information published to the site becomes out of date over night.

To successfully achieve a ROI from your web site the planning phase of the project needs to meet the ongoing business requirements, increased sales targets and offline marketing requirements of your business. Being able to generate reports based on criteria that are identified as being important to the success of your business and web site will begin to demonstrate that the 24 hour online shop front is returning significant value.

Key reporting variables that is often used includes number of page visits, time of visits to the web site (after hours is a good online indicator), subscribers to your eNewsletter, sales leads, online sales (eCommerce), employment requests, number of changes to your web sites per month and so on. By combining these factors plus many more a business can begin to demonstrate web site ROI.

Gone also are the days where a web developer needs to be paid just to perform updates to the web site. By managing your web site instead of paying a web developer a business will increase the effectiveness of the site as well as reduce ongoing costs of running a web site. Web site publishing tools are prolific today however many fail to meet the ongoing business requirements of an organisation. Just being able to edit some areas of your web site will not generate a return on investment alone.

By following a well constructed plan, choosing a company that will aid you in understanding how to leverage the web and being diligent about the tools you purchase to manage your web site will generate a significant returns from your investment.

So many web development businesses find it acceptable to deliver a project over a series of months if at all! When choosing your web developer ensure references are checked and ask the referees the tough questions that may include; how long have other projects take? Did the web site meet your expectations? and finally; Are we purchasing a supported product or freeware or custom solution?

Most web developers cannot demonstrate successful project delivery cycles within 1 month of accepting a deposit; even fewer have a product strategy and virtually no local vendors support products with regular upgrades and feature enhancements. We hear the same stories over and over again.

Once choosing a vendor and deciding to create your interactive web site the next phase of the project is the planning and delivery cycle. This phase will determine the success of the project with communication with your vendor, emarketing best practice and leveraging search engine crawlers.

All business managers that are involved in the interactive web site project have a series of tasks that are essential to the success of a project. By planning the structure of the web page(s) including functional requirements drawn in, creating sitemaps and of course developing content maps that meet best practice sets clear expectations and guidelines. Web designers and developers will then be able to deliver to a set of instructions that will reduce delivery time, reduce the occurrence of unexpected issues and increase the effectiveness of the web site.

The planning phase also will determine search engine marketing results and emarketing effectiveness. Expert advice should be sought to maximise results.