Multilingual Web Design

If you are living in a country that its native language is something rather than English language, then you may like to develop your website to offer content in the language of your own country. There are millions of websites on the Internet that are all in English language but there are billions of people on the earth that speak a different language and are not familiar with The English language. However, most of the Internet users are basically familiar with English language and could use the Internet but there are many subjects that are hard to understand for those people whom their language is not English. So, having a website that provides the content in a language rather than The English language is necessary for you. Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Dutch, France and many other languages are general samples of most used languages on the Internet.

some tips before starting to design and develop your websites:

1.The Code Page

The best code page that you should choose for your web pages is Unicode. Unicode is a kind of numeric presentation of characters that is two bytes and so can contain up to 65535 characters to show. Until now, there have been no human being languages in the universe that have had more than these much characters. So, by using Unicode, you are able to show all characters of your language. To represent your web page as a Unicode page, add below line of code in the head part of your page:

2.Tools For Development

For creating web pages in Unicode format, you should have a tool to be able to type in your language. One of the tools that are widely used by web developers is Microsoft Front Page. If this tool is installed on Windows XP then you have the most powerful set of software to create Unicode documents. FrontPage is a WISYWIG tool for creating web pages and you can easily choose the language of your web page in options of the page and appropriate HTML tags would be automatically inserted in the code.

3.Nature of the Language

If your language is Right-To-Left like many of Asian and the Middle East languages, for example, Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew, you should tune your operating system to be able to switch from Left-To-Right to Right-To-Left typing method to be able to type from Right and from Left. If you are a Microsoft Windows user, you can configure your system for multiple languages and keyboards, each of them having a different kind of input methods. For example, you can add Farsi as the second language of your Windows and then switch from English to Farsi by pressing a combination of keys and start typing in Farsi. Also switching from RTL to LTR would be possible by another key combination.

4.Navigation and Design Considerations

Some languages force to apply some changes in the design and navigation of your website. For example, if you have a vertical menu bar, you may put it on the left of your pages for English pages and in the right for Arabic pages because Arabic is an RTL language and people are used to starting reading pages from right to left. However this is not a rule, but it is better to consider it in designing pages. Another issue is the entrance page. If your website is in two languages, you may add an entrance page that makes the client choose the navigation language of your website. This page could be a very nice graphical page with two options for choosing the desired language and then enters the website in that language.

5.Font Face Considerations

When you are creating your web pages in a language rather than English, you would be limited in using font faces. There are a few font faces in windows that are installed automatically and can show multilingual characters. If you like your visitors view your pages correct without any need to install fonts, you have to use those minor number of multilingual fonts. One of the best font faces is Tahoma that is somehow easy to read and contains all Unicode characters also is included in Windows.

6.Database Driven Web Sites

If your website is a database driven and you have forms that clients may fill and be posted to database, there would be lots of very technical issues that you should consider to be able to collect and retrieve data in different languages. This part is beyond the aims of this article.

7.Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a major issue for multilingual websites and you should be aware that not necessarily all major search engines and directories handle multilingual web pages perfectly and your website may not be listed in many of them. Google is a search engine that indexes multilingual web pages too. However there are some issues and difficulties but it works well enough for your website to be indexed in your language.

8.Domain Name

No matter in which language is your website, the domain name of your website should be in English because at this time, having a domain name in another language is not a very easy thing to have and multilingual domain names are a new issue and is under development. There are some solutions but are not yet set perfectly. So, I suggest you forget those solutions and choose an English name for your website.

9.Web Server And Hosting

However major web servers, like Microsoft IIS and Apache both support multilingual web pages, but I strongly recommend you to ask the hosting company for this issue and make yourself sure that there won’t be problems for your web pages to be served by the hosting company.