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Website Localization Guide - part1

Issue 9, Jun/01/2009

<p><img src="http://www.icanlocalize.com/images/stock/website.jpg" alt="" width="281" height="186" align="right" style="margin: 0 1em 1em 1em;" /> <strong>Localizing your websites is one of the best marketing investments you can make</strong>. It's a complex task and coming prepared can save both time and money.</p> <p>In this series of tutorials, we'll cover:</p> <ul> <li>How to make the website translation-ready</li> <li>SEO (Search Engine Optimization)</li> <li>First time translation and updates</li> <li>Where to place translations (same domain, sub-domains, different domains)</li> <li>Communicating with visitors in their languages</li> </ul> <p>Let's get started with <strong>getting your website ready for translation</strong>. If you're thinking about translating your own website, this is the place to start!</p> <h2>Common mistakes that make websites difficult to translate</h2> <h3>1. Using images to store texts</h3> <p>This is the most frequent problem that's seen when translating websites. When you put large amounts of text inside an image, you make it extra difficult to translate. What happens when text in images needs to be translated:</p> <ul> <li>The translator cannot edit the image itself (just give you back the translated text).</li> <li>Translation tends to take up different space and doesn't fit the image dimensions.</li> <li>Maintenance becomes a head-ache.</li> </ul> <p>The solution is trivial - <strong>don't place texts in images</strong>. Even if it's very tempting, avoid it.</p> <h3>2. Setting fixed sizes to blocks</h3> <p>Some times, designers set fixed sizes to DIVs and tables. For example, if you see something like this:</p> <pre><code>&lt;td width="100" height="100"&gt; </code></pre> <p>It means that the table cell will be 100x100 pixels. When the site was designed, it probably made something look nice, but what's going to happen when it's translated.</p> <p>When English text gets translated to Japanese, it shrinks to about 70% of its original size. When it's translated to German, it can grow to as much as %200. In both cases, forcing the translation into a fixed-sized cell is not going to look very good.</p> <p>Again, a trivial solution - don't apply fixed sizes. <strong>Use layout that can easy adjust to the actual text size</strong>, both vertically and horizontally.</p> <h3>3. Using regional character encoding</h3> <p>Do you know what is the difference between Latin1 (iso-8859-1) and UTF-8?</p> <p>Latin1 uses 8 bits for characters, hence allowing up to 256 unique characters (at most). UTF-8 is a character encoding which assigns a variable number of bits at characters, allowing over 2 million different characters.</p> <p>If your website still uses the ancient Latin1 character encoding, now would be a great time to change it. To do this:</p> <ol> <li>Open each page in a text editor.</li> <li>Save as Unicode (UTF-8).</li> <li>Change the character encoding declaration in the header to "charset=utf-8".</li> </ol> <p>Otherwise, it will be very difficult to translate it. Translation might be possible to another European language, but anything besides that will just not work.</p> <h2>What's next?</h2> <p>In the next article, we'll talk about how to prepare to build search engine optimized translation. If your site is already optimized for search engines in your own language, you'll be starting from a much better point, so it's worth putting some effort into this now, before you translate.</p>

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