How to Set Up Multilingual E-Commerce

    Dealing with business in the sphere of eСommerce demands at least one website with elaborated structure, understandable user interface and modern manifold features. This is one of basic conditions which allows your company to carve out a niche in the electronic market of a single region. The “languages” question appears when your business is ready to conquer the market of new region or even a couple of different regions with different local languages. If your web project consists of multiple pages and should be presented in three or more languages then multilingual support becomes a vital requirement which needs to be premeditated as early as possible to avoid serious money loss in the future.


    However, if the project is small enough and its maintenance doesn’t imply huge funds infusion multilingual support may become unnecessary. In this case it is possible to create two independent web projects in different languages with different content, features, etc. Each business owner should make a decision himself, evaluating arguments like the cost of project ownership and the necessity of multilingual support in future. Let’s take a closer look at the methods of multilingual implementation of your web project and decide which one suits your business the best.


Methods and ways of implementation

   There are two main methods of providing your eCommerce project with several languages: implement each one as a certain service or as a SKU property.


Method 1: implement each language as a certain service

   In the first method all the language packs are considered to be certain projects with customized logic where program core part is similar for each of them. So when new custom feature is created it can be quickly integrated into every language service. The only thing should be done after that is testing to be sure that the new feature works right and didn’t hurt any functionality developed before the new feature integration.

   The major disadvantage of this method is the necessity to copy the content while adding new. For example, let's look at project where three languages are supported: Russian, Ukrainian and English (International). This means that if you want to add a new picture, you should add it in three different projects. And if more languages are supported, then content management of such product turns into a really hard work.

   Also, unforeseen spendings may occur as far as some frameworks demand purchased license for every project. This may increase the cost of eCommerce website and the more languages you are going to use in the project, the higher its cost will be. However, if there are no problems with license using the same framework on different projects then it will cost nothing to business.

   This is the way we did project. This project was made for different countries, and Moldova and China are among them. So if we develop any new feature we are able to apply it to any region customizing specific settings for each of them. Putting it otherwise, the service consists of the program core and custom settings for specific region, like delivery terms and others. The main advantage is that the core remains almost the same. While adding a new language, you just have to copy the core (or push it from git). In this case, the development of web project core becomes cheaper which gives a chance to save funds for your business.


Method 2: implement each language as a SKU property

    Another method is based on SKU properties. Each good or service offered on your e-commerce product has an id which includes a number of properties like name, price, description, etc. Each property of a certain good may be presented in several languages and the language needed displays according to which language switcher is on. Let’s see how it will look like in the admin dashboard. For example, if a good offered is a pen, and multilingual support supposes 3 languages (English, German and French) then it may look like:

Name: Pen;

Benennung: Federhalter;

Nom: Stylo;

   Such approach leads to more powerful capabilities. For example, it becomes possible to write a script which will check if all the fields are filled to exclude or minimize mistakes and unfilled fields. In addition it becomes easier for a content manager to work with the admin panel of the website as he becomes able to edit the information in all the languages supported from a single place.

   Unfortunately, such method is considered to work a bit slower than the first one as the SKU includes too many data.


What about highload projects?

   Notable feature of this method may be applied to highload projects. The bottom line is, that all the properties of similar type may be written in one line in different languages using a unique splitter that should be invented for every language. In this case, the example above mentioned will look like this:


Name: {eng}Pen {ger}Federhalter {fr}Stylo.


   Here {eng}, {ger}, and {fr} are unique splitters which tell which name refers to which language. It is an incontestable advantage as we can edit the content in all the languages as a part of a single property.

   However, all these benefits turn into a total disaster as soon as your highload project starts dealing with five or more languages. Each line turns to be too long as far as it contains too much data separated by unique splitters. Content management becomes inconvenient because of complex and bulky structure, but still possible.


How should a language switcher work?

   Language switcher is probably the main feature of user’s interface attributed to multilingual support. So while thinking over developing this feature you should regard user’s behavioral factors. Altogether, there are two ways of language switcher realization. They both work after clicking the switcher icon, but have different logic and essence.

   The first variant is changing the language redirecting user to main page no matter on which page he was before. This method is mostly used on old web projects and is considered to be undesirable due to many disadvantages it leads to. The main and most important one is probable funds loss. In modern world of eCommerce the price of some goods may reach several thousands of dollars. Imagine a situation when a customer, who haven’t yet decided whether to buy a good or not, wants to change its description from English to his native language but instead of that this eventual buyer is redirected to the main page. For sure this operation won’t stimulate him to buy the good. The purchase may not be committed so the risk of investment loss is big.

   The right way of how the language switcher should work is dynamic language change without any redirects, so the customer stayed on the same page before. This method is considered to be troubleproof as it minimizes eventual funds loss. By the way, if you choose this way of language switching, it is very easy to implement it together with method number 2 (second method) that we were talking about above (implementing each language as a SKU property) with the help of SKU id. The only presumable trouble you may face  – when some fields in SKU property are filled in one language but are empty in another so you should keep it in mind.


Which method suits your business better?

   Probably the most complex problem the business owner may face  is choosing the right method of multilingual support implementation. At first it is important to decide how many languages will be used in the project. Method implementing each language as a SKU property will match projects with no more than five languages. Another required condition for this method is identical structure and logic of the website in different languages.

   If your electronic commerce project is considered to have different structure for different regions you should tilt toward method 1: implementing each language as a certain service. This method matches large projects with dissimilar structure for different regions supported with more than five languages. In this case it is important to develop the core first and after that make adjustments to every language project.


Take away

   Multilingual support development is a very important constituent of your web project if you deal with eСommerce and are going to carve out a niche in web market of several regions. If you are not sure whether you need this feature supporting your project at the moment you are free to ignore it. As there is nothing impossible for a skillful developer in the world of IT, it is possible to develop multilingual support for your web site in the future. However, in this case the cost of the project may increase in several times which won’t be good for your business.

   If left without essential attention in the beginning, development of multilingual support may become very expensive in future. That is why the question of this feature should be brought up from the very beginning of the project planning. This will help to choose the method of how to integrate multilingual support in the project and make your business work effectively avoiding unnecessary funds loss.


So it is very important for you to remember:

  • Multilingual support development is  very important.

  • There are two ways to provide multilingual support on your eCommerce project and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Choose the right the method of providing multilingual support that will suit your business the best.

  • Pay attention on how the language switcher will be implemented.

  • Think about multilingual support development at the origin of project planning.


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