Language indicator, to use or not to use?

By | July 10, 2006

I’ve recently gotten a few questions on the issue of multilingual website implementation and the usage of a language indicator (eg: nl, uk, de). So today it’s time to look into best practice, both from the visitors point of view as well as that of the programmer.

Visitors like confirmation
That was easy. I just summed up the reason why it could be important for your visitor to include a language indicator in the URL. If I am browsing your website I would like to know what language the information is that I can expect. And I mean all of the information, not just this page. Because of that reason I would prefer to see a URL like:

http://www.mydomain.com/en/MyProduct.html

As apposed to something like:

http://www.mydomain.com/MyProduct.html

With the first of the two I know what to expect, even when just looking at the URL. The second one leaves me guessing, especially when I haven’t yet visited the website and I know it to be translated in multiple languages. You might think that stupid and visitors don’t care. If you do you’re unlikely to ever get a visit from me!
Aiding the programmer
The second part of the little equation is the programmer. May sound dumb, after all they will do what ever you want. But it may be important to lower development cost or decrease development time. If you want to make it easy for the programmer leave out the language indicator. After all the contents of the pages is similar, it’s only the language that varies. And for the navigation the language can be indicated in the database so that only pages in the same language appear.
Having said this about the development part, I also need to add that it should not be too difficult to add multilingual support with language indication. It will just mean some careful planning in advance so the developers can keep it in mind programming the website.

Concluding
When you look at the fact that visitors will love the language indication and it should not pose to much difficulty in implementation why not do it! I mean aren’t your visitors the reason you stay in business. And those darn developers shouldn’t complaint about something which should not be more then a day or two of work.

Leave a Reply