You know it’s a good night for the tech industry when you have to skip out of one event right as it ends to go to another! Tonight was both the monthly Drupal Northeast Meetup, and a more informal meetup of the Google Digital Services folk (who’ve been in town interviewing for the new Newcastle Digital Centre that’s going to be based out of Longbenton of all places).
This month, Adam Hill did a live demo of setting up a multilingual site.
His overall comments on structuring a multilingual site would make a content strategist proud:
“Don’t build a multi-lingual site in English and add extra languages, start building the infrastructure for the two [or more] languages from the start”.
Part of the reason this is important is because of URL paths (if you set up the site well, they can exist clearly separate of each other) and partly because it means you can plan out how to input the translations without having to battle the admin in the different languages!
Into the more nitty-gritty Drupal stuff.
First of all: decide the source language for your site *at the start*. You can’t change it half-way through without causing a load of trouble (something which Hill’s team learnt the hard way when doing projects).
According to Hill, there are two elements of Drupal translation:
While the former is the crux of your important information, the latter is also key for making the experience of using a site truly multi-lingual. It’s also a bit trickier at times since it delves into Drupal core: if you’re lucky, your other languages will have language translations ready to upload from drupal.org, if not … you’ll be working with someone who knows the language to figure out the appropriate translated UI words.
Hill showed that you do need a number of modules to make internationalisation play nice:
In terms of setting up and implementing a multilingual site, Hill had the following tips:
Only at the very end did he sneakily point out the very nice trilingual (including Arabic!) site annalindhfoundation.org that his company recently released.
Some of the things his team learnt from the site was the issues of character density: as it turns out, French is more verbose than English (causing issues with labels), while Arabic as well as being right-to-left is also a far more compact language, thus making the designs look extremely sparse in comparison.
Also, random fact of the day: Hill found out that if you want to use Arabic characters in Photoshop, you have to but the Middle Eastern edition!
After that it was straight over to Brewdog to see who of the digital set were mingling with digital government peeps. From the brief chat I got to have with some of the GDC team (who’d all bravely come up from London and had apparently been surveying the Toon from a nearby hotel when not conducting interviews for the new centre) it sounds as if there’s going to be some interesting things going on in terms of cross-disciplinary teams. In unrelated matters, I got my hands on a complimentary copy of Design Transitions thanks to Emma Jefferies, which also had a surreal moment when one of the GDS people realised they were in one of the photos in the book!