WordPress is not a multilingual CMS out of the box. In today’s market, making multilingual websites is an indispensable subject for many business owners all over the world. Luckily, many developers are working on enhancing the multilingual WordPress experience by building performance optimized and user-friendly multilingual plugins.
As you will dedicate time, effort and money in translating your website, it is recommended that you do the enough amount of research to ensure that the multilingual plugin that you will choose is covering all the aspects that you want to achieve.
In this article, we provide you with all the points you need to check to help you in finding the right multilingual plugin for you.
Switching from one multilingual plugin to another is not a trouble-free task, you will encounter some migration issues as multilingual plugins don’t store the contents of your website in the database in the same manner. You might even need to re-translate your website manually if no migration solution is available.
To avoid all of those headaches, there are a few things you need to check while you’re picking your multilingual plugin.
1. Preliminary Translation Options
The essential translation options that any multilingual plugin should contain are:
1.1 Translate Posts and Pages
The first thing you are going to do is to translate your posts and pages. Thus, the translation plugin should provide you with a simple user interface since it is the most repetitive task.
1.2 Translate Categories and Tags
Categories and tags have to be translated and synced with their related posts tightly. If you have 5 posts in one category, its translated version should have the 5 posts synced as you don’t need to go to every translated post and assign to it the translated category.
1.3 Media Translation
Yes, you need to translate your media and the multilingual plugin has to make it as a piece of cake for you. You should be able to display different media elements for each language and also the captions and ALT texts should be translatable.
2. Menus and Widgets
Menus and widgets are core elements for your website and should be synced across the different language versions by the multilingual plugin of choice.
3. What about Custom Posts and Custom Taxonomies?
There should be some kind of management in your multilingual plugin towards the custom post types and custom taxonomies. Not all custom posts need to be translated, for example, testimonials that are generated by your clients and you want to display them everywhere across your website versions.
4. Translate Different Slugs
Translating the URL of your post or page is a good practice for your SEO, consider site.com/product and site.com/fr/produit, the latter makes more sense, right?
5. Different URL Structures
There are different options for the URL structure that you can use for your multilingual website:
Domains: domain.com for English and domain.de for German
Subdomains: en.domain.com for English and de.domain.com for German
Directories: domain.com/en/ for English and domain.com/de/ for German
Your multilingual plugin should allow you to pick the structure you want for your multilingual website.
6. Multilingual SEO
The plugin that you will choose to translate your website into multiple languages should be able to help you ranking all versions of your website in the same manner for your default language. For example, it should add hreflang tags for every post and page on your website. Also, it should allow you to translate the slugs of your pages. Not to mention that it should be compatible with the popular SEO plugins to make use of multilingual sitemaps, translating SEO attributes, etc.
7. Translation of Themes and Plugins Texts
8. Local and Professional Translators
You don’t have to be a superstar translator and translate every single word on your website you also don’t need to copy down the posts/pages content in an MS word document and send it to a translator to do the job for you.
The multilingual plugin should have an easy straightforward translation manager that makes the translation process effortless. Equally important, it should provide you with an option to make use of professional translation services.
9.Right To Left Language (RTL) Support
If you’re translating your website to an RTL language such as Arabic and Hebrew, the multilingual plugin should play nicely with loading the right CSS files from the theme. In addition, switch the direction of your WordPress backend when you use it with an RTL language.
10. WooCommerce Support
A big portion of eCommerce websites are multilingual ones as they aim to target a larger segment of clients around the world. Therefore you should consider translating your eCommerce website. Many of the people shopping online have the urge to buy in their own language
11. Integration with Other Plugins
There are few plugins on the market that need some distinct attention to work flawlessly in multilingual websites such as an eCommerce website based on WooCommerce plugin. The multilingual plugin should be able to handle the workflow of such plugins by adding integration classes or even by creating bridge plugins. For example, Gravity Forms Multilingual by WPML and Polylang for WooCommerce by Polylang.
12. Compatibility with Other Themes and Plugins
Not all developers follow the standard (correct) internationalization guidelines and as a result, you may find some untranslatable texts. Also, you might encounter an issue with particular functions such as portfolio items not showing in the other languages. Henceforth, the multilingual plugin you’re going to choose should have a defined list of the compatible themes and plugins that guarantee a seamless translation process.
13. Automatic Machine Translation
The option of an automatic machine translation in your multilingual plugin can help you expedite the translation process, after automatically translating the content it should be reviewed by yourself, a local translator or by a professional translator. Please make sure to do that before publishing your content!
14. Custom Language Switchers
Language switcher is the only cross-linking element that will connect your pages and posts among the different versions of your website. The ability to create a custom language switcher and place it wherever you want is a fundamental asset.
15. Developers API
The multilingual plugin should have a clear, fully explained and working (no fatal errors!) API. Developers know the importance of plugins APIs to their work. So if you’re building a multilingual website, check the API of the multilingual plugin you are going to use.
Free multilingual plugins are out there, but you will never find a complete solution for your multilingual project in a free plugin. Most of the multilingual plugins are premium ones, so comparing the prices is doable here.
When you are purchasing a multilingual plugin, you should check the prices of its add-ons. Additionally, you will need to check the cost of the professional translation services integrated with the plugin.
Although English is a universal language, it might not be the right language to support a French customer who is buying the multilingual plugin to translate his French website to German.
As we are talking about multilingual plugins, I always think that its support should be multilingual too! Providing support in different languages is definitely a plus.
Choosing the right multilingual plugin that fits your needs might be a tricky task if you don’t know what you are looking for. In this article, we have summarized the main points you need to check before proceeding with your pick.
I don’t agree with the author of the plugin about the minor importance of translating the URL slugs.
Sorry to say but this is a very important SEO practice.
I was ready to buy Wp Glbus Plus but the lack of this important feature stopped me from doing it.
Hope the author will consider to add this function in future updates.
@Luca WPGlobus Plus can translate slugs. Read the description.
To help Nagdy with the comparison table:
WPGlobus does NOT do (see my comment above for a partial “why”):
– translate media
– translate taxonomy slugs (only translates post/page slugs)
– support (sub)domains (only the `domain.com/xx/` format is supported)
– automatic translation
– anything special for RTL (themes do that, and everything works as far as we know)
– translation of themes and plugins texts (not our business; use Loco Translate / POEdit)
– custom (?) language switchers (though we have a menu-based switcher and we have a configurable switcher widget, which could be placed anywhere)
All the rest IS supported by WPGlobus. Mostly in the free version. WooCommerce and slug translation – in premium add-ons.
In addition to the Nagdy’s list, WPGlobus can turn on and off any elements of the menus and even can assign completely different menus for each language. Same – for widgets.
So what plugin is recommended?
WPML is what I use and recommend.
I would say WPML, it covers all the features I mentioned except for the automatic translation thing.
You could also try Weglot (https://wordpress.org/plugins/weglot/).
Nice article – but it’s missing a comparison table showing how the existing translation plug-ins meet or do not meet your checklist.
Guess what, I have started that table but I could not finish it. Anyway, I’ll try to make it asap.
1.3 Media Translation – may be convenient but not really necessary. The ALT is editable when you add media to the post. Caption – too. And of course, you can use different images for each language.
6. Translate Different Slugs – it’s funny, but specifically in WC, their own translation of ‘product’ to ‘produit’, ‘produkt’, etc. may conflict with a multilingual plugin :). Otherwise – yes, it’s nice to have.
11. Right To Left Language (RTL) Support – it should be a theme’s business. The multilingual plugin just switches locale. The theme should load RTL. No?
15. Automatic Machine Translation – well, if you are running a joke site, that’s an option. For anything serious, you do not even start with an automatic translation. IMHO.
Integration with other plugins, themes – that’s the largest pain. In our case, (WPGlobus), if a theme does `echo $post->post_title`, we cannot do anything.
And the main point is Support. The biggest “PITA”, especially when your model is “freemium”.
11- I agree with you, but as you said the plugin should play nicely with those kinds of themes.
15- From my experience, I found starting with the automatic translation can expedite the translation process as you might need a reviewer rather than a translator for the languages you don’t know anything about them.
Integration with other plugins, themes – yes it’s a pain, as you might know that for example, WPML created a few bridge plugins that handle the compatibility with the popular stuff such as Gravity Forms and ACF, etc..
PS: I’ll try to reach you about WPGlobus as I want to check it out or review (maybe?)
Thanks for your input 🙂