Update January 2014: qTranslate is now considered an abandoned plugin and you should definitely be using WPML if you care for the longevity of your site.
qTranslate is a very popular free multilanguage plugin for WordPress. This is frequently reason enough for you to use a plugin, however in this case you might want to spend a few more minutes reflecting on whether it is best to use qTranslate or WPML for your multilingual WordPress site.
If you spend some time reading on the web, it will be immediately clear that the leading multilingual and translation plugins for WordPress are qTranslate and WPML.
Let’s consider how they both work. Starting from qTranslate:
All languages are inserted into the same page when editing in the WordPress dashboard. This is ok until you have a large number of languages. Then the interface starts looking more than a little overcrowded. Therefore I’d say it is not so scalable from a UI point of view. On the frontend, the plugin will automatically load the relevant language depending on the language selected by the user.
Moving on to the way WPML works:
Content gets stored in different posts/pages and linked together automatically via the plugin. Again the front end loads the appropriate language according to the user’s selection. This is a more scalable structure, and the UI is kept constant irrelevant of how many languages you have on your site. It is also easier to assign a language to one site editor who will be managing that language because things remain separated.
qTranslate is FREE but WPML is NOT
The main reason why qTranslate is chosen by so many users is that it’s free. However, as you know free is not always best. Of course, there are situations when qTranslate can be ideal, but you first have to consider what kind of site you have and what are your goals for that site.
If you have a big site with lots of content, you will need support, and therefore your only choice is WPML, which is very well supported by a number of developers. It is easy to find developers who can help you implement WPML, but you can also find quick help on the WPML forums, this is why you are paying for this plugin, to get great and timely support. The same cannot be said for qTranslate.
So I recommend you use qTranslate only if you have a small site that you don’t plan to grow very much, and are absolutely on a ‘spend nothing’ kind of budget.
Also, one thing I don’t like in qTranslate is that comments are not separated by language. If your site receives a lot of comments you should definitely go for WPML, else if you have comments disabled, you will be perfectly fine with qTranslate.
In the long run, WPML is one of those things where you end up really satisfied and you forgot that you even paid for it in the first place because its value is so great.
Still not convinced? Then the best way to decide is to test these plugins yourself. Just set up some test WordPress installations and install these plugins, then you can compare the performance and UI of both. You can go ahead and buy WPML for testing purposes, if you don’t like it you can use their money back policy to request a refund. There are no hassles when giving out refunds, so you have absolutely no problem there in getting your money back if you are not satisfied.
Just remember when testing to give the same use case scenarios to the two plugins, give them the same amount of content to handle, check out how they handle menus, custom post types, widgets, theme translations, etc. See if there are any conflicts with other existing plugins you might have installed, and then make your final decision. Also, keep in mind that WPML has guaranteed support and a team of more than 10 developers working on improving it all the time.
If you’ve already chosen qTranslate and now want to switch over to WPML, don’t fret! WPML have created a free qTranslate to WPML importer plugin which makes it easy to move over content to the WPML plugin
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