The role of a CMS (Content Management System) is to help you manage your website content efficiently and effectively and finding a CMS which has the appropriate functions and features for your particular content needs is essential. This is equally true for international websites, where content is regularly added, updated and modified in multiple languages. Making the wrong decision on which CMS to use could result in major headaches and a lot of stress down the line.
There are a huge number of CMS’s available and a lot of them will claim to be able to handle multilingual content. However that doesn’t guarantee that they will have all the functionality you really need when you’re regularly updating multiple languages.
So I wanted share a checklist of things you should look out for if you’re selecting a CMS for an international website.
Importing and Exporting
You do not want to manually copy and paste content. Not only is it time consuming but there is also no way to quality check the content, meaning mistakes can and will be made. If you’ve spent time and money getting content accurately translated, you don’t want to undo all the good work with some typos.
Once you’ve determined that there is an import and export capability, the next step is to look at how that actually functions. Ideally, you should:
- Be able to export content selectively. It is ideal if navigation content can be exported separately to body content and meta content, and/or in sections and categories, so making changes is easier and quicker.
- Be able to export content in reasonable file sizes. Breaking the content into smaller files makes both the localisation and the import more manageable and efficient for the translators and web developers.
- Be able to create XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) 1.2 file exports. This is an XML based format which is mainly used by the localisation industry to standardise the way data is passed between tools during the localisation process and it incorporates html natively into the content. If this isn’t available, the CMS must be able to create other types of XML compliant files, such as .csv or .po
Character and Language Support
It goes without saying that the CMS needs to be able to handle different languages but you need to ensure that it can support double-byte characters, so that languages using them such as Japanese and Chinese will display correctly.
It’s also important that it can support right to left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. This isn’t just the body content but all elements of the website, such as the navigation and dropdown menus, which will need to change to accommodate these languages and provide a good user experience for your visitors to those pages.
And think with the long view in mind. You may only be targeting European languages right now, but what about in 1 year, or 5 years or even 10. It is better to accommodate all languages from the start, than find you have an unsuitable system in place and be stuck with it.
While this isn’t essential, having the ability to archive and compare different versions of the content will enable you keep track of changes, refer to past content and identify any errors or inconsistencies.
Some CMS’s also send automatic alerts if content is updated and requires localisation, which can be very helpful in ensuring that the content in every language is as up-to-date as possible and will avoid updates being forgotten or delayed.
The ability to check content again past activity and data is a huge benefit, as this can recognise if content has been translated in the past, and avoid duplication of work.
Testing and Quality Assurance
This is important for any content but particularly for localised content, when layouts and formatting may have altered in the localisation process. The ideal CMS would have a staging site or a development preview function which enables the content to be quality checked in context before going live.
It is also beneficial if the CMS offers a multilingual searching facility on live pages, so that content can be easily located and manually updated if changes are required.
The localisation of web content can be complex and challenging, especially on websites which require regular updates and have a lot of content, however choosing a CMS which will work with you and not against you, will remove some of the obstacles and improve the efficiency of your localisation activities.