Is a Multilingual CMS Enough for Effective Global Expansion?
Content management systems have come a long way, but can still fall short for major multilingual online projects.
Content Management Systems—both cloud-based SaaS and Purchased models—have greatly matured in the past decade. They’ve become indisputably powerful tools, ideally suited to manage a company’s domestic, primary-market website. But this coming of age has also heralded a parade of features targeted at global enterprise customers.
One such feature is multi-website and multi-language management. CMS companies often present this functionality as an easy way to launch websites that serve customers in new global markets. It makes the CMS a one-stop shop for a client’s international website management needs, they say.
While these CMS multi-language solutions are interesting, they often aren’t as quick, easy or painless as they sound. Language is complex. Managing languages and content across multiple enterprise sites can be exceptionally difficult. CMSs fail to deliver the robust features that are actually needed to efficiently and easily translate (and update) major, complex international websites.
While we’ve got lots of love for CMSs, here are a few ways in which they can fall short in multi-language management.
Missing Multilingual Features and Functionality
Mainstream CMSs aren’t designed primarily for website translation; indeed, for most of these products, translation functionality was added well after they debuted in the market. In the day-to-day reality of large translation and update workloads, CMS translation tools can underdeliver. The results can be inconsistent, low-quality and costly.
That’s because these products do not have mature translation workflows—aka systems that efficiently identify content for translation, assign it to translators, accommodate prompt translations, and provide multi-step editorial review processes. They also have less powerful translation workbenches—aka tools designed to ensure accurate, consistent translations—than other solutions provide.
Many businesses sidestep this anemic functionality by exporting their primary-market site’s content (often in English) into an XML, Word or Excel file for translation. This is then sent to a translation team. The content is translated, and eventually funneled back into the multilingual CMS for publication in global markets.
Unfortunately, this process increases the likelihood of imperfect translations. In website translation, contextual integrity—being able to view not only translatable content, but surrounding content such as images, charts, specifications and product categories—is absolutely essential for accurate translations. Without that context, errors can abound.
Compromised Look and Feel
Unfortunately, this lack of contextual integrity also plagues translators who do choose to use multilingual CMS tools. Most CMSs take a traditional approach to translating online content. (For instance: a window to review English text, and a window to input translated text.) This limited visibility quickly leads to on-site challenges. A primary contributor to these problems is a phenomenon called word growth. See, some languages require more words or characters to articulate a point than others. This is common in translation, especially when the translated language is a Romance language. Spanish content tends to be 25% to 30% longer than its English counterpart, for example.
These longer translations impact the layout of web pages … and in many instances, they wreck the look and feel of meticulously-designed templates. Pages, paragraphs and buttons—often originally designed for shorter English content—now appear disjointed or broken. It’s a serious aesthetic liability for any brand.
Since CMSs may not provide real-time “live views” of how translations will appear on-page, the process to fix these issues is long, stressful and expensive. Translators edit and QA, and then edit and QA again, and again, to overcome these chronic context and layout problems.
Overlooking Nooks and Crannies
Unfortunately, storing multi-language content within a CMS database does not automatically produce a translated website. Translatable content exists in hundreds or thousands of web pages—and in different media such as text, images and PDFs.
Translatable content also resides in many unexpected technological “nooks and crannies,” including within the code of website applications, Flash and HTML 5 multimedia experiences, and more. That’s a big problem for translated sites. Web applications that render content dynamically must be re-developed to support multilingual content. This introduces significant complexities in application logic. And when back-end architecture is modified, significant reintegration is usually required.
CMSs cannot detect or manage the sensitive guts of these applications, and therefore can’t translate them.
Multilingual CMSs don’t scale especially well, either. Large websites often contain hundreds—indeed, sometimes thousands—of templated pages. These pages must be created specifically for their respective international markets. And then they require initial and ongoing translation.
For the unfamiliar, this is a complex, costly and time-consuming process for most CMSs. Managing these translated pages as they evolve can pose serious project management challenges. To properly manage this rapidly-changing content, companies often hire new personnel—often requiring as many employees to manage each international site as it does to manage the company’s English site. That gets expensive, fast.
Many companies discover the hard way that this approach is not scalable for more than a few international markets. Expansion plans can stall, or be derailed outright.
Poor Synchronization and Change Detection
Further, managing several major, complex multilingual sites via a CMS is often an inefficient, manual process. A common side-effect is that the messaging and content of these global sites often become “out of sync” with each other.
For most large companies, new content, code or editorial changes are regularly published on a company’s primary-market website (such as new products and promotions, updated company policies, etc.). But CMSs rarely have robust change detection technologies in place to automatically notify international site managers and translators of these updates.
This usually results in extensive and costly translation delays, which leaves untranslated content appearing on global websites. This alienates consumers, and sends bounce rates soaring.
Overlooks External Content
Finally, CMSs can suffer from another shortcoming when managing translations. A CMS can only provide translations for the content it manages—meaning, assets stored in its content database. But what about the vast content that “lives” in servers or platforms beyond the CMS?
Indeed, most contemporary websites display content stored on external databases, or use third-party content. Consider features such as syndicated content and feeds, Find A Store applications, customer review platforms and more. These create powerful, sticky user experiences.
However, in these cases, translations cannot be managed from within a CMS. The result? A kludgy, mixed-language user experience that defeats the organization’s exhaustive efforts to build a world-class website.
Most CMSs just aren’t designed to perfectly manage large-scale translation and localization. We believe—and our many of our customers agree—that the best-possible approach to website translation is to find the best tool or technology for each task.
Sometimes this means bucking the trend of “locking in” your organization to a single content management methodology. By working with several tools and technologies, fantastic online experiences can be forged—and with greater efficiency and impact than you’re probably currently experiencing.
MotionPoint’s solution provides this ultimate performance and flexibility. Regardless of what CMS your company may be using now (or five years from now), MotionPoint’s future-proof platform can elegantly address your content translation needs—and all of the challenges mentioned in this post, and more. Our solution can work independently of your CMS, or be integrated into your existing technology stack—or as a combination of both approaches. We can accommodate every step of your globalization journey.
Contact us for more information. We’ll happily offer our perspective on how our solution works seamlessly with your CMS, and how it can deliver a worry-free, ROI-fueled, solution for your needs.