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.
WPML is our top recommendation for translating your WordPress site.Get the Plugin
To be fair, we are in 2022
WPML is the worst plugin ever build for WordPress. If you want performance, use Polylang.
I have been created over 500 websites, and worked beside that on multiple other websites. And it’s the same over and over again. If there is WPML activated on the page, I spend time on my own to migrate to Polylang.
Thanks for chiming in, Michael. We’ve actually started comparing translation plugins here:
What about WPML makes you call it the “worst plugin ever” though? Your actual experience could help more readers understand the concerns you’ve had with it.
This is by far the WORST translation plugin to exist. For a very long time it was the only one with many options. Not anymore.
It is FULL OF BUGS. There are issues with every site being built. tickets have to be opened all the time to get simple things to work.
I have never set up a full website with WPML without having to open a ticket. Not once. And support? By far the worst out there. I’m really hoping that with their new pricing structure, some money will be put into the quality of code and support.
After at least 3 years of giving them a chance, it is time to move on for me.
I am a staunch defender of WordPress almost since its inception and I think WPML was wonderful when it was a free plugin ;))
Over time, it seems that wordpress has put aside the option of creating web pages with different languages with no additional cost (free)
Do you know if someday it will be implemented in the source code of WordPress the ‘translation process’ to various languages as already makes in others CMS?
Thanks in advance.
Greetings from Barcelona!!
Hi, I have asked this question several times to the lead developers of WordPress, and every time the answer has been that it is unlikely that it will be included in the foreseeable future. The reason is that they have a policy of only putting in core those features that will be used by 80% or more of the user base. While multilingual functionality is used by thousands of people it is nowhere near that 80% figure.
WPML does not modify URLs in the site, except (of course) adding language information to them. Depending on how you configured WPML, you can arrange languages in domains, directories or with a language argument. Besides adding language information, URLs in your site should not change.
Before we release any version of WPML, we do a complete functional test, as well as performance measurements. WPML allows to translate everything in the site. This means, also translating texts that come from other plugins and from the theme. Therefor, performance also depends on the other plugins active in your site and your theme.
WordPress updates normally require updates to the plugins and theme in your site. Before you update WordPress, you should check that all plugins are compatible with new versions. If you are running an older version of WPML, you may see errors when updating to a newer WordPress version. The reason is, at the time that version of WPML was released, the new features in WordPress did not exist yet. WPML is always compatible with the newest versions of WordPress, ahead of their release.
If you want me to look at specific support threads, please paste their links here.
I have been using the WPML plugin for some time… what was to follow was a nightmare… we ran the plugin for a 2nd language for quite some time… and then figured that the plugin was quite a resource hog – as measured by: P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). We saw that 70% of the resources consumed on our website were by this Plugin. And that by removing WPML we could speed up response time of our website by up to 50%.
So we decided to uninstall the plugin and run the 2nd language manually. What was to follow was and still is an ongoing nightmare.
WPML the plugin from hell, will modify the database irreversibly. So that after uninstalling the plugin the database is compromised.
The result is that permalinks on the website are wrong. We had countless conversations with WPML support and they could not provide a solution. So we have now programmer working on this manually changing links in the site… back to what they are supposed to be.
All hell broke loose when we upgraded from WP version 4.3 to 4.4 – that is when the links in the site got screwed up.
And we have to pay dearly for this reparation of the site. Our programmer is still working on getting rid of the damage that WPML did to our website.
So be very careful betting your site on the WPML plugin. For us it turned out to be a huge mistake.
And we had to learn that their support sucks greatly.
Hi Jean! Just noticed your last comment here, I actually do know a better plugin for multilingual WordPress sites 🙂
Bablic.com is a startup I’m a part of, and we recently launched our WordPress plugin. The beauty of Bablic, compared to WPML, is that you don’t have to create additional pages, menus and so on!
You just enter your WordPress URL on our homepage at Bablic.com – choose from machine or human translation to start. You can then, right from our user-friendly editor, right-click on any element on your site to manually edit it. That includes text, images and even CSS.
It really is a unique solution.
Try it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂
This seems to me that this article has been sponsered by wpml!
If its supposed to be review then one should write both good and negative things about the Product!!
WPML is not for those who has no knowledge of PHP. Atleast one should be familiar with the language inorder to solve many minor errors which comes with this plugins.The more you use WPML the more error or bugs you see down the line..
I’ve been told to reinstall old version of wpml inorder to solve a bug. All the translation has been done. And when you think and feel everything is going fine a bug caused by WPML Plugins appears and your day is gone solving this problem.
If you have time and nerve to use multilanguage site( specially WebShop) with this plugins then go ahead.But mind you, if you want to have a professional look for your site then stay away from this plugin because sooner or later out of nothing you will see error coming. the latest error which i got and which seems to be very common is as follows:-
Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 805306368 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 32 bytes) in /test/wp-content/plugins/sitepress-multilingual-cms/lib/xml2array.php on line 15
As I said earlier this is not a sponsored article. Do you know of a better product for multilingual websites? If so I’d love to know about it. Till then WPML remains the king of multilingual plugins.
With regards to errors, I doubt WPML would be so successful as it is today if it had so many errors, keep in mind that it’s in use by many thousands of websites (if not millions). I would suggest you sort this out with their helpful support team, it might very well be a server config issue.
Please state that this is a sponsored and paid review. Essentially an advert. If only WPML was as good as you state. Please see the thousands of support posts – most never resolved (but quietly buried).
it’s a shame as many parts of it are great and it is the best WP plugin. It just seems that the testing phases simply aren’t adequate as on almost every new release they introduce site breaking bugs or even worse re-introduce existing bugs that were previously fixed. And they have publicly admitted this.
I beg any decent software house at their to take up the challenge and build a better solution. Until then we’re stuck with WPML….
This is not a sponsored and paid review. I still believe that WPML is the best multilingual plugin for WordPress. It might not be perfect, however it is still the best option available. I must also add that I know the guys behind the plugin are always looking for feedback and are ready to make improvements to their plugin, so if you have specific things you want improved just list them here and I’ll have someone from WPML take a look and respond to you.
Thanks for a really detailed review and instructions.
Can I check that if I already have the content translated that it can be added easily?
Would this be by using CAT or is this not necessary?
Thanks again 🙂
Hi Julie, can you explain in more detail what your question is, I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand it.
Sorry not explaining myself very well!
The content has already been translated by my client and I would like to add it straight into WordPress rather than have WPML translate it and wasn’t sure if this would be added as a new page in the usual way or if it had to be added to WPML somewhere?
No problem Julie, WPML doesn’t translate content for you, it’s just an interface that makes WordPress multilingual, which means that with WPML you can enter your content in more than one language.
I agree with William – great product, but support is bad. I’m using it as standard with U Design theme which they claim on the site is fully compatible. It appears it is not. Support spent two days asking me questions which made me doubt their levels of competence. Then I got passed to the development team. I’ve been with their “compatibility” team for the last 48 hours and not a word from them apart from “thank you for your patience”. I’m now 4 days down the line with no answers and a weekend coming up.
By the way the support for U Design theme was amazing – plenty of intelligent suggestions within hours (which is quicker than I would expect) but unfortunately didn’t solve the issue. They went well beyond which is completely at odds with the WPML folks.
This seems like an exception Tim, you are definitely right in expecting to wait less for an answer, but in general WPML have great support and are one of the longest established companies in the WordPress scene, even offering support in multiple languages.
One of the best introductions to a plug in that handles complicated tasks. Certainly takes some of the fear out of the process for me.
However, I do worry about some things. My site uses a lot of plug ins, two of them essential, and both complex: All-in-One Calendar and Business-Directory. How do I check compatibility? Also I am using a brand new theme, Ant Magazine 1.1, released about 3 months ago. How do I check compatibility in advance of purchase of WPML?
Also my blog/website is heavy on multi-media, using lots of embedded video and audio. Might that pose a problem for the translated page?
WPML have a list of compatible plugins and themes on their website.
Great Advert for WPML!!! The software is fairly good but has a few gaps for sure. Support is very very average. Don’t expect questions answered quickly – the average seems to be quick on initial questions then anything from 12-72 hours for followups.
Thanks for stopping by William, would love to have your views on the ‘few gaps’ you mention. As for support, I think up to 48 hours is quite standard in the industry. More than that would indeed be something to take note of. My own experience with WPML support is good though, it probably depends on the complexity of the questions asked as well.
Congratulations, very nice article! You wrote as our support member, great points and valuable information.
Very informative article… Exactly what I was looking for…
Glad that helped!