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Localization of Content Management System (CMS) Websites

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Ricardo AlvesIn this edition, we will be wrapping up our series on website localization with a discussion of Content Management System, better known as CSM. However, before we go into the localization process itself, allow me to provide a brief introduction of how this type of system works.

CMS is a set of tools installed on a server that are combined for the purpose of assisting with the administration, modification, publication and maintenance of online content, from simple websites to the most complex portals.

CMS may contain several resources and features, including the following:
Administration: the part of the system where you can enter, modify or delete content, install or remove additional modules and change the website settings, such as the title, date format, currency, language, etc.
Additional Modules: several CMS tools offer the possibility of having modules installed on the main system to enhance the website functionality, thus turning it into a true portal. Some of the most common examples of add-on modules include surveys, forums, private messaging, chat, calendar/agenda and others.
Templates: these define how the content will be displayed on the browser, including its formatting. Templates are HTML pages with placeholders that will be replaced with the text from the page the user requested from the server. A well-designed template should not contain text, only the page structure and formatting.
Database: the part of the CMS that stores the texts for each page, the very content of the website.
Engine: the CMS component that receives the pages requested by the user via browser. These requests trigger a process in which texts, templates and website settings are selected and the HTML code is assembled. This HTML code is then sent to the browser so that the user can view the requested page in the proper format.

There are several CMS tools available, yet only a few offer multi-language support. Before a CMS can be considered ready for localization, it must allow for proper identification of the language of the text to be entered in each page.

Let’s see how the differences between the CMS models interfere with website localization:

Localization-Ready CMS

This means that the system is prepared to deal with multiple languages for each page. In this case, the same body text, title and subtitle of a page will have several entries in the database, one page for each registered language. See the example in the database table below:

index page_num category text language
1 1 title Welcome to Our Site! en_US
2 1 title Bem vindo ao nosso site! pt_BR
3 1 subtitle Cosmetic Product Line en_US
4 1 subtitle Linha de produtos cosméticos pt_BR
5 2 title Skin Care en_US
6 2 title Cuidados com a pele pt_BR

To translate the content of this type of website, it is necessary to extract the texts together with the page identifier (pag_num), category and language into a translation-friendly file format. This process helps the localizer to reinsert the text into the database after the text has been translated into the target language.

In such cases, SQL language is normally used to extract and reinsert the text. While inserting the text, the new database entries will have the acronym of the new language in the “language” field, which in this example is Brazilian Portuguese (pt_BR).

The example below demonstrates how to insert text in Argentine Spanish (es_AR) into page 1:

SQL> insert into text_table set (page_num, category, text, language) values (1, “title”, “Bienvenidos a nuestro sitio Web!”, “es_AR”);

SQL> insert into text_table set (page_num, category, text, language) values (1, “subtitle”, “Línea de productos cosméticos”, “es_AR”);

CMS Not Ready for Localization

Although it takes more engineering time to successfully complete extraction and insertion, systems that are not developed for this purpose can still be localized.

The engineering team of the localization company should contact the client company’s webmaster or website developers to analyze how CMS operates. Hence, they will be able to evaluate the best method for extracting and reinserting the translated texts.

In this case, although extraction can be automated, reinsertion of the translated text will be done manually through the very interface of the CMS. This is because the system cannot detect that the text being entered is the translation of an already existing page, only in another language. As a result, it is necessary to generate a new page ID for each localized page.

This insertion procedure can also cause other problems such as the need to create a new menu that points to the new IDs of the translated pages. See the difference between the two types of CMS in the tables below:

Localization-Ready CMS:

en_US menu
link to page: aaa pt_BR menu link to page:
Cosmetic Product Line     Linha de produtos cosméticos  
- Skin Care 2 + en   - Cuidados com a pele 2 + pt-br
- Bath Accessories 3 + en   - Acessórios para o banho 3 + pt-br

CMS Not Ready for Localization:

en_US menu
link to page: aaa pt_BR menu link to page:
Cosmetic Product Line     Linha de produtos cosméticos  
- Skin Care 2   - Cuidados com a pele 27
- Bath Accessories 3   - Acessórios para o banho 28

Regardless of whether the CMS has been developed for localization or not, if it is not possible to have direct access to the database table where the texts are stored, the extraction process may become more complicated. In the worst case scenario, this would have to be a manual process, adding to the effort and increasing the time required to complete the process.

Of those systems that do not allow direct access to the database, very few have their own tool for exporting text to a file (whose extension is usually .xml or .csv). However, even those CMSs that have extraction tools rarely offer the means to enter translated content. Either the absence of an extraction tool or a device to re-enter text makes the localization process equally difficult.

At any rate, website localization with CMS tools vary from case to case and system characteristics must always be evaluated before determining the costs and the time required for localization. If you plan to create a website using CMS tools, please bear in mind the issues described above and feel free to contact Ccaps so that we can help you evaluate the best way to get your project started.


This article was originally published in Сcaps Newsletter (http://www.ccaps.net)

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