As the usage of WordPress continues to grow exponentially on a global level, so does the need for proper multilingual capabilities on WordPress websites.
Having your site’s content available in several languages makes business sense, after all. In a time where businesses are competing in a global market, you don’t want to leave any potential customers out in the cold just because you haven’t provided content in their native language.
Luckily, WordPress can be a joy to use when creating multilingual content, chiefly due to the presence of a fantastic plugin, aptly named WPML.
Here’s the 101 on WPML
Before we delve deeper, let me just give you some points on why I am in love with this plugin:
- WPML has been the first plugin to offer a complete multi language solution to WordPress users.
- WPML has been created by a translation company who know how the translation process works.
- WPML has a fantastic support team behind it, ready to help you out.
- WPML supports the WordPress community by offering free plugin and theme localisation reviews.
- WPML releases regular updates and improvements, keeping it up-to-date with new WordPress releases.
- WPML’s feature-set is simply unparalleled by any other plugin out there.
- WPML costs only $79 for the CMS version and $29 for the Blog version.
I think you get the idea, this is one damn solid plugin, but lets dig deeper and see what this plugin is all about.
WPML is Actually a Suite of Plugins
WPML might have started out its life as a solo plugin, but as its feature set has grown a number of other add-ons have also been released. When you buy the plugin (I’m assuming you buy the powerful CMS version that I have), you get all the following plugins:
WPML Multilingual CMS
WPML combines multilingual content authoring with powerful translation management.
WPML String Translation
WPML add-on: Allows translating texts in the theme, in other plugins and in the WordPress Admin.
WPML Translation Management
WPML add-on: The Translation Management package helps run translations for large WordPress sites.
WPML Sticky Links
WPML add-on: Prevents internal links from ever breaking.
WPML Translation Analytics
Helps site admins manage and track the status of translation work.
WPML CMS Nav
WPML add-on: Creates navigation elements, which you can use with any theme.
Turns the WordPress Media management into multilingual and allows showing the same images on translated galleries.
Allows sending translation jobs as XLIFF to translators. Useful for people who work with freelance translators or translation agencies.
Allows running a multilingual e-commerce site using the MarketPress plugin from WPMUDEV. You need to purchase MarketPlace to use this plugin.
Allows to use WPML with GravityForms, to create multilingual contact forms.
Here’s a screenshot of all the plugins in the WPML suite installed on one of my sites:
WPML Installation & Setup
The main plugin, as you might guess, is WPML Multilingual CMS. Once you install and activate that one plugin, you’ll get access to the main configuration screens and you can actually start translating your content in posts and pages.
To ensure that new users don’t feel overwhelmed, WPML have included a handy link to the help documents that appears as soon as you activate the main WPML plugin. Clicking ‘Yes’ will take you to the WPML website where you can learn all about the plugin and add-ons, but if you’re familiar or prefer learning by doing (or breaking!) you can hit the ‘No thanks’ button and start configuring.
Off we go then to start configuring. The first step is to select your default (current) language. If you’ve been creating your site’s content in English up till now, then that is your current content language. If it was another language, just select it from the dropdown.
Next up we need to select the additional languages that we’ll be translating our content into. You need to tick these languages on this screen and click ‘Next’ when you’re done.
The final step is to configure the language switcher/selector, which will be the main tool used by site visitors to switch between the different languages of your site.
That’s it, setup is complete. I didn’t need to read any guides up till here, it was all very straightforward and intuitive.
Here’s how the language switcher (with default settings) looks on my sexy Genesis theme sidebar on the front end.
Remember when I said that WPML is the most full-featured and solid multilingual plugin available?
Check out the Admin language selector in each user’s profile after activating WPML. Now that’s what I call thoughtfulness, a sure sign of a plugin that is the result of many hours of development and a clear planning process. I just love it when plugins surprise me with that neat touch.
Another setting I’d like to touch on is the ability to choose how the URLs are structured. With WPML you get three options, and all of them are good, but personally I prefer the ‘Language directories’ option as I find it the cleanest. These are the three options.
- Language directories (like wpml.org/es/ for Spanish and wpml.org/de/ for German).
- Different domains per language
- A language parameter added to the URL
A common concern is which URL setup is best for SEO purposes. In reality they are all good in terms of SEO. If you’re interested, read more about what URL strategy is best for SEO purposes.
WPML is very intuitive, that’s for sure. You have four options for translating the contents of your website:
- Manually creating posts and pages in other languages
Create translations as new posts or pages using the standard WordPress editor.
- Using the Translation Management module
Control who’s translating what and give your translators better tools. See demo
- Professional translation by ICanLocalize
You can find freelance translators from ICanLocalize between over 30 languages. See demo
- Using desktop CAT tools
Let your translators use their own CAT tools using WPML’s XLIFF interface.
Having such features makes WPML ideal for the smallest website to the biggest WordPress-based news or magazine websites.
A big percentage of the users will no doubt start by trying out the first option, that of manually creating posts and pages in other languages.
Let’s take a look at how that works then.
You go to your usual page or post editing screen, and on the right you will see that there is now a ‘Language’ box where you can control your translations. The user interface is intuitive and the WordPress experience is not damaged in any way.
To translate your post/page into another language, you just hit the + button and a new edit screen will open. You then enter the version of your post/page in the selected language, and hit ‘Publish’. That’s it, now your post/page is available in two languages. Continue in the same fashion for the other languages.
To give you a better feel for the translation process, I’ve recorded a short video for you:
There are also the other options (mentioned above) related to professional translation, but I won’t go into those, as their usage is all well described in the WPML website.
The bottom line is that WPML has all the features you would need from a translation tool, however through their idea of dividing functionality into addons, they managed to keep things simple for any kind of user. If you don’t need the professional translation stuff, you just install the base WPML plugin and get on with things, it’s very simple.
Best of all WPML is super stable and won’t cause any problems to your site’s performance or SEO optimisation. This is a plugin that has been performing consistently well for a number of years, so you can rest assured that you are building on solid ground.
A website’s content is its most valuable and important component, so you need to be sure that whichever multilingual plugin you choose will work well not only now but also a few years down the line. That’s why it is so important that a multilingual plugin is backed by a proper team with a successful company behind it. In the case of WPML, it is backed by OnTheGo systems, which is the company that also owns the ICanLocalize translation services and is the creator of the Toolset suite of plugins.
As mentioned earlier, WPML comes in two flavours, the Multilingual CMS version and the Multilingual Blog version.
If you have a blog and want to translate it yourself, the Multilingual Blog version will give you the most important component, and will let you provide multilingual content to your users.
On the other hand, for any other website I highly recommend purchasing the Multilingual CMS, as you get full features with no compromises, at that price its a real still for the functionality that you’re getting. t allows to translate every aspect of your site, right from within the WordPress Admin panel. Your clients will be able to use WPML’s advanced translation management capabilities, which include translator roles, job queues and email notifications.
Support to the WPML plugin and addons is provided via the WPML forums, and you won’t have any problem getting answers to your questions, as WPML support is fully staffed and there’s always someone ready to supply help when you need it. Few other plugin developers can count on a support department as efficient as that of WPML.
True to their multilingual roots, WPML provide support not only in English, but also in Chines, German and Spanish.
Professional Translation Services
There are lots of places to find translators. Websites such as Elance and Proz can put you in touch with translators through the web. However, it’s possible to get access to professional translators from your WordPress admin area.
ICanLocalize offers high-quality professional translations. It’s a self-service system so you put out the advert to the translators and they’ll let you know if they can take on the job.
All of ICanLocalize’s translators have either a degree in translation, an MA or PhD in their source language, or have passed their ATA tests. They also have to pass rigorous internal testing.
ICanLocalize guarantees the quality of the work – if you’re not happy it will be fixed; if it can’t be fixed your payment will be refunded.
Another great feature of the WPML plugin, integrated translation services. This is the kind of thing that makes WPML so hard to beat.
The proof is in the pudding as they say, so here are a few WordPress sites that have implemented multilingual functionality using WPML. Browse around and see how easy it is to switch languages for a user.
WPML is hands-down the best multilingual plugin I’ve used. It takes the potential complexities of translation out of the equation and leaves us with a pleasant way of adding more than one language to a website or blog.
I hope this review will help you in deciding whether WPML is for you or not, if you have any questions please go ahead and ask away in the comments section, I’ll update the review periodically if I need to add more information that is requested by WP Mayor readers.
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