If you are a bit removed from the world of multilingual websites, WPML is an extension for WordPress that allows us to convert any site into one that supports multiple languages, hence the name of this site is the acronym for The WordPress Multilingual Plugin.
Pages, posts, menus, widgets, strings, everything can be translated, but where to start? Which version should I choose? CMS or Blog version? Are there alternatives? Is it open source?
Alternatives to WPML to implement multiple languages in WordPress
The first thing to ask ourselves is what our objective is: to create a robust and easy to maintain multi-language site, and without forgetting the positioning regarding search engines (SEO). So why WPML and not another plugin? We will review what alternatives we have and we will comment on the pros and cons in each case.
- qTranslate: The most popular alternative to implement multiple languages on a blog, it has a large number of users but currently does not have support for WordPress 3.9 or higher. Yes, you are right, it is not compatible with the current version of WordPress, 4. Despite its ease of use, we must add that the entries are edited under the same post_id, which has a very negative influence on positioning, since that the use of SEO extensions such as WordPress SEO by Yoast or similar limits them to only be applied in the main language, and the same happens if we introduce tags inside the post, where there are no translations of tags or categories. It is a free open source plugin and is found within the official WordPress repository.
- Polylang: like the previous ones it is open source and also developed by a single person. Is there something wrong with only one person maintaining a plugin? No, except that this plugin generates so many dependencies with the WordPress version that each update of the core requires an update, or simply that given the volume of code in this type of extensions, limiting updates under a single author is limiting your use. On a positive note, it does offer WPML API support, is this important? A lot, since these primitives are supported by many other themes / plugins, and to be compatible with them is to open many doors. And then what do we have as a negative aspect? Simply, Incompatibility with WooCommerce, the most popular WordPress plugin for creating online stores. Not even its author has proven that it works while others demand this functionality. No need to be picky either, this is a free plugin that does its job very well, albeit in a somewhat limited way. Considering that what we are looking for is a plugin for the day to day, we have no choice but to despise its use, at least for the moment, and try to find another option for the use of multiple languages in WordPress.
- Multisite Language Switcher: A very well built system, except that this approach is for multisite installations, and something that may seem like an advantage becomes a limitation, since it is not compatible with conventional installations. For a network it is a plugin to consider, outside of it does not work. Since we are looking for a general purpose extension we discard it as an option.
WPML, the chosen multilanguage option for WordPress
WPML is out of the list above because it is not an alternative, it is the option chosen to implement multiple languages on a WordPress blog.
But, why this one if it is paid? A bit of history: it was not always a paid plugin, since the project started back in 2007 until mid-2011 it was a free and free plugin that we could find within the official WordPress repository. In fact, through Wayback Machine we can make memory and go back to the past to see what was in that url that now does not work: current and April 2011 .
And the million dollar question, why should I pay for it now?
The answer is: support. In addition to compatibility, we have a wide community and more than widespread use (according to its authors more than 400,000 users, in April 2011 they were a quarter of a million, so the figure does not surprise me). Continuing with the history of this plugin, it was then in March 2011 when they publicly announced that they would charge for it $ 29 and $ 79 for the Blog and CMS version respectively, prices that to this day (3 more years continue to maintain). Then we will review how each version differs.
The fact that this plugin is paid does not imply that it is violating the GPL license (under which WordPress is located), but that the generated code is not licensed as such. We are not going to enter into discussion of what continues to be a very ambiguous topic today (another interesting link), but I will say that each one acts accordingly. For my part, I prefer to buy it and have the necessary support, regardless of the license they provide.
Blog or CMS version which one to choose?
We decided, after reading the first part of this entry or after verifying that we are dealing with a very complete and widely used system, to download it. But we are on the purchase page that we have two versions, well three: blog, CMS and CMS Lifetime. Which version is the most appropriate? For price, obviously the blog version, $ 29 instead of $ 79-195 for the full version, and will it be enough? Let’s see what each package includes through the following list:
- Blog: includes WPML core
+ Media Translation plugin
- CMS: includes WPML core
+ Media Translation
plugin + String Translation
plugin + Translation Management
plugin + Translation Analytics
plugin + XLIFF
plugin + Sticky Links
plugin + CMS Navigation plugin
- CMS Lifetime. Same as the previous one, with the exception that the support and updates are for life, instead of a year as in the previous ones, hence its price difference.
So which one interests me? It is very simple. The blog version is intended for basic sites that are mostly a WordPress blog, while the CMS version is more complete and allows us to perform all the tasks that any complex site would require.
Let’s review what we get in exchange for each extra functionality module:
- WPML Core. It is the main WPML plugin, basic and necessary for all other extensions to work. It provides us with basic translation controls and enables the translation of content into different languages. In some cases it is used autonomously, without the need for the following, although the functionality in these cases is limited.
- Media Translation. Basically it manages which image to display based on the selected language. The operation is similar to content translation, except that in this case we translate images (hence the media).
- String Translation. As the name implies, it translates strings. Strings that we can find in the PO / MO translation files or not, and this is where this plugin does a great job. It allows us to translate them directly into WordPress, without using additional files.
- Translation Management. It allows us to manage the translation of a page, create roles and monitor progress. Ideal for sites that require external interpreter translators for their translation, or that due to their volume directly assign it to certain groups.
- Translation Analytics. In short, reports. Clear and concise information on the current and historical state of the site.
- XLIFF. The XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) interface is an industry standard. This extension fills that gap, import / export in XLIFF format.
- Sticky Links. It helps us maintain the integrity of internal links. Internally and automatically, the linked pages are tracked and all the associated links are updated, so that when the permalinks are modified (either due to a hierarchy change or the page slug) the incoming links are updated.
- CMS Navigation. Add translation functionality to breadcrumbs, drop-down menus, and navigation aids.
If you are not very clear and suspect that you are not going to use the added functionalities of the CMS version, do not hesitate, get the blog version, you can always do an upgrade paying the difference.
It may really seem like OnTheGoSystems, the company behind WPML, is paying me for the words I convey. That would be ideal, to tell my experience and what I believe in, and that I would benefit financially from it. And in part it is true, I benefit professionally, I reduce indirect costs and my clients are happier, which has a very positive impact on my bottom line. Everybody wins.
This is all? No, there is still more. I had not raised this entry as just a historical introduction, search for alternatives or which version to choose, there is something we are missing. An installation from scratch as a tutorial would complement it 100%, how to use it successfully in a WordPress installation.
But I do not want this entry to become a book, we are going to leave it for my next publication; I would not like to leave behind details that would never be overlooked in a dedicated post. See you in the next installment.