A simple and effective technique to deliver the same website in any number of languages, with actual (not automated) translations.
An international company manufacturing steel abrasives and steel shot blast for industries around the world.
I was introduced to this project by the design company Form Creative who had been working with this client previously. They approached me with an initial question: what's the best way to build a website that can deliver the same content in 16 different languages?
It turned out the client had offices in 16 countries and it was important that each country could maintain their own website content. This was made more difficult by the fact that not all of the 16 proposed site administrators actually spoke any English, so the admin area had to be so easy to use that they could understand it whatever language they spoke.
I researched the market to see what translation options were available. At the time, automated translations systems were problematic and prone to delivering incorrect translations. They are better these days but in 2008, not so much.
It didn't take me long to realise that an alternative approach was required for this project. And the solution appeared in the form of session cookies.
The opening page of the website presented new visitors with a page of country coded flags. Each flag represented a language and when the visitor selected a language, the system set a session cookie which identified their choice. From there on, every page they visited delivered the page content in their preferred language.
As many of the administrators spoke little or no English, I built a simple control centre that used internationally recognised images to guide the way.
When each administrator logged in, they could only access the content for their language so all they had to do was use the image navigation to find their way to the page to edit. This made it easy for each page to have a manual translation of the original English content.
The designers presented the solution to the client and it was so successful that they didn't need any tuition or further instructions to use it. What greater compliment could they have made?
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