Smart Solutions for Translating Website Content

August 31, 2017

There’s no question that translating website content can help you reach a broader audience. Since we last posted about enhanced internationalization and multilingual site options, we’ve discovered more resources for translating website content. 

First, consider your needs.

1. Make sure you know your audience.
For example, Spanish is not the same the world over! Mexico, Spain, and Argentina each have their own dialect of Spanish.
2. Assess how much content you’ll need to maintain.
The amount of content you have, the rate at which you create new content, and the rate at which you update existing content must be taken into account.
3. Identify what content is most important.
One tip for saving a bit of money on human translations: Focus on your most important and most trafficked pages. Don’t translate every little thing on your site. Instead, focus on those things your Analytics tell you are important. Leave the rest of the site untranslated, or use machine translation for the rest.
Once you see how your audience reacts, invest in more at that point, rather than jumping in to full investment right away.
4. Prepare for contact.
If you’re translating website content in different languages, a supporter will very likely contact you in one of those languages. Think about how you’ll respond to emails and phone calls in other languages.

Next, pick a plugin.

Now that you know what content you need to prioritize, it’s time to consider the technical solutions. When custom solutions like the one we built for Access Now aren’t an option, WordPress provides a gamut of plugins for translating website content. Let’s walk through the plugins with your end goals in mind:

Create a single post for each language. 

  • Goal: Each language version of an article is set up as its own post. These are then linked together, indicating that one is the translation of the other.
  • Recommended plugin: WPML (Plugin cost: $29-$195)
  • Hey look! Here’s one example we built: World Jewish Restoration Organization

translating website - wjro example

Each translated post has its own post, helping you fine-tune your changesEach translated post has its own post which increases the size of your database
Translates menu items, breadcrumbsCost (but let’s be real…it’s not terrible)
Popular and well-testedCompatibility — consider how this will work with your themes or other out-of-box solutions

Accommodate all languages in a single post.

  • Goal: All language alternatives are stored and edited in the same post.
  • Recommended Plugin: qTranslate X (Cost: FREE, donation recommended)
Easy to use interfaceChanging menu languages is not as easy as WPML
Side-by-side editing of content in different languagesUninstalling the plugin can be complicated
Free and well-supportedCannot set different urls for the same content without extra add-ons

Automatically translate all of your site content.

  • Goal: In this scenario, all content on your site is translated (including comments) and users can change the language by simply selecting another language from a dropdown menu.
  • Recommended Plugin:  GTranslate (Cost: FREE)
Fast and comprehensive (so many languages!)Not as accurate as manually creating content (a.k.a. “human translation”)
FreeCannot change/edit the translated content

Manage translated content as multiple sites.

  • Goal: Language versions are set up as separate WordPress sites, which are linked together with a plugin so visitors can ping back and forth between them.
  • Recommended Plugin: Multilingual Press (Cost: FREE)
Powerful with easy synchingRequires implementation and knowledge of WordPress Multisite (with its own pros and cons)
No plugin lockin (i.e., each site can work without the plugin and function on its own)See above — ya gotta deal with WP Multisite 🙂

Other options for translating website content.

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Yes, it’s true: Human translations are more readable and user-friendly than machine translations, and there’s a high potential for unanticipated LOLs when translating website content with machine translation. But they’re also expensive and labor intensive.

Good news! There are great options for human translations, as well:

If you’ve gotten this far down the list, then maybe you’re feeling like you just can’t afford human translation because of time or funds? Well, there’s always Google Translate (duhhhh, we know). Bablic may be the perfect solution: it starts with machine translation, but lets you override what you’d like to create a perfected translation in less time.

Now get out there and enlighten your site visitors with the content they need, in the language they read. Good luck with the translations, friends!


By Lesley Molecke

Lesley has been working on the web since she was in high school and ran her own small web design shop before she could drive. She has extensive experience performing user testing and usability studies, rewriting and improving complex language to appeal to a wide variety of audiences, and helping organizations adopt the right technologies to achieve their goals. Her heart really belongs to nonprofits and small businesses, where she can see the tangible benefits of a healthy web presence: donations, connections, engagements, and sales.