Blog post dated Oct 28, 2019

Website Translation Made Easy: Connecting CMS and TMS

A study conducted by Common Sense Advisory with over 3,000 participants worldwide found that 75% of consumers prefer to buy products on websites in their own language. In addition, 60% of consumers rarely buy products on websites that are only available in English. This means that having their website translated is one of the most important measures companies can implement in order to expand internationally.

Yet this is one area where there are still a lot of unanswered questions. How should we approach the project? How do we extract the content from the website? Do we need special software for this? In this article, we identify some common obstacles that may come up when translating websites.

An Article by

Flurina Schwendimann
Freelance Translator

We also present solutions to ensure that this step on the road to becoming more international is smooth and successful.

When It Comes to Website Translation, Being Well Prepared is Half the Battle

Before launching the project, the company must ask itself a number of fundamental questions. This includes choosing the “right” target languages, because not every language or target market will generate the same level of success for the company (i.e. sales). Other questions to ask when preparing include:

  • Have we correctly estimated the costs and the additional resources required?
  • Is the product or service even suitable to sell internationally?
  • Can the company’s employees communicate in the customers’ language (e.g. sales or support)?
  • Is the company prepared internally for the process of exporting its products?
  • Have we truly identified everything that needs to be translated (like videos, images, ads, brochures, etc.)?
  • Is a translation sufficient, or does the content need to be localized in order adapt it to the target market from a linguistic and cultural perspective?

A detailed look at these questions can be found in the RockSolid Themes article “7 Questions You Should Answer in Order to Successfully Build Multilingual Websites.”

Further Requirements Internationally Successful Websites Must Meet


Appealing content for target audiences and markets

Selection of the right keywords

Availability of a central translation platform

Easy language selection

Regard for cultural circumstances

Adaptation of graphical user interfaces to different text lengths

Use of globally accepted symbols

Use of standardized terminology

Use of Unicode

Use of the respective country’s units of measurement


Technical Requirements of Website Translation

The majority of websites are created using content management systems (abbreviated CMS). Four of the most widely used are WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, and TYPO3. Many other content management systems are available and can be used depending on the requirements. This article focuses on content management systems that are suitable for larger companies with complex websites. A comprehensive overview of various content management systems and their features can be found in the IONOS article "CMS comparison 2019: The most popular open source systems".

The special thing about these four content management systems is that they are open source. This means that companies can adapt the CMS to their own needs with the appropriate programming work. In addition, the content management systems have very active communities that regularly release free and paid plug-ins that can extend the website’s functionality.

According to BuiltWith, 2.7 million websites were also created with the proprietary HTML editor Adobe Dreamweaver. However, Dreamweaver is not discussed in this article because using it to implement multilingual websites is extremely complex. In the Dreamweaver communities, people generally recommend using a content management system for multilingual websites to keep the workload manageable.

Active Websites by CMS

WordPress: approx. 18 million

Joomla!: approx. 2.5 million

Drupal: approx. 772,000

TYPO3: approx. 425,000

Source: BuiltWith

Many CMS are open source and companies can adapt them to their own needs.

In order to be able to translate a website built with WordPress or TYPO3, you need an additional plug-in. In contrast, with Joomla! and Drupal, the translation feature is built right in. One of the most popular plug-ins for WordPress is called WordPress Multilingual (WPML), which costs between 29 and 159 dollars, depending on the license, as well as another 21 to 119 dollars each year to extend the license. The TYPO3 plug-in for multilingual websites is called Localization Manager (l10nmgr), and it’s free. With Joomla! you need to install and activate the corresponding languages before translating, while with Drupal, you only need to select the language from a drop-down menu.

Once the appropriate plug-in has been installed, or if the languages have been installed or selected, the next question to answer is how will the translator get the content so they can translate it? After all, installing a plug-in or activating several languages in the CMS only means that it is now technically possible to display content in different languages. But how to actually get this content into the CMS is a completely different story.

Long Since Done With Work or Still Busy Copying and Pasting?

The most common, but also most ineffective way is to copy and paste the content. It is often copied from the front end of the website, pasted into a Word document, and then sent to the translator. Anyone who’s ever worked like this knows that it’s extremely tedious. The most common problems that can occur include:

The fonts and formatting are not displayed correctly

This is because Word or another word processor tries to display the content exactly as shown. In practice, however, this rarely works, which is why the text is usually too large or too small. In addition, this often adds unnecessary spaces and empty sections, which cause the content to be displayed incorrectly in the translation editor.

Part of the content or website is missing

This happens quite frequently, because it’s easy to overlook a section or even an entire subpage. Meta data like title tags, meta descriptions, keywords, anchor text, or alternative image tags can’t be copied and pasted from the front end of the website, meaning they won’t be translated. This has a negative effect on search engine optimization. In addition, websites often have subpages that are not indexed in the menu. If this is the case, these pages may be skipped completely, resulting in a website that is only partially translated. This makes the user experience worse and as a result, lowers the (potential) customer’s willingness to buy.

Missing context

As mentioned above, websites aren’t displayed correctly in word processing programs. This means that individual sentences or paragraphs are not displayed in the correct context, which can cause translation errors.

Meta data can’t be copied and pasted from the front end of the website, meaning they won’t be translated. This has a negative effect on SEO.

Exporting and Translating Content Directly from the CMS

A much easier way to completely translate a website is to export the content as an XLIFF file. XLIFF stands for XML Localization Interchange File Format and is a file format used to exchange localization data.

The benefits of exporting an XLIFF file are obvious – you can be certain that all the content that needs to be translated will be exported. In fact, you can even individually select which pages are relevant for the new target market and, if necessary, leave certain pages out. This method also ensures that all of the website’s metadata will be translated. As a result, you also make life easier for the translator, since they don’t have to deal with incomprehensible formatting in their translation editor.

Exporting XLIFF Files

In order to export XLIFF files, you’ll need to use a plug-in – in WordPress and TYPO3 as well as in Joomla! and Drupal. Depending on the CMS, plug-ins are sometimes also called “extensions” or “modules,” but don’t let this confuse you.

  • WordPress WPML: The basic version can export XML files that can be used for translation, but some content, such as widgets, is not exported. Since you’ll need a plug-in to add the translated content to the website, however, you might as well export it directly via WPML or a similar plug-in (e.g. Polylang or Multilingual Press).
  • TYPO3 L10N Manager: Using the TYPO3 extension, you can easily export and import files in XML format. Here’s a tip: activate the “Check UTF-8” option in the L10N Manager to ensure that umlauts and special characters are exported correctly.
  • Joomla! jDiction: Before exporting your content as an XLIFF file with the free jDiction plug-in in order to have it translated, you need to first install and activate the target languages.
  • Drupal tmgmt: tmgmt is a free module for Drupal. It’s not the only one of its kind, but it is the most widely used. Just like with Joomla!, you first need to install and activate the target languages before you can export XLIFF files in the desired languages.

Depending on the translation process, the XLIFF file can either be translated internally or assigned to a freelance translator or language service provider. Our article “Optimizing Translation Processes” provides an overview of the different steps that a document can go through before the translation is published in the target country.

A much easier way to completely translate a website is to export the content as an XLIFF file.

Connecting Content Management and Translation Management Systems

If your company already uses a Translation Management System (TMS), it’s worth considering setting up an interface between the CMS and the TMS. This offers the major advantage that content that needs to be translated can be automatically exported to the TMS, eliminating the need to export and import XLIFF files and ensuring that translations are posted to the website in a timely manner.

In case you haven’t given any thought to translation management systems yet, you should read our article “All about Translation Management Systems.” It provides a detailed explanation of what a TMS is and what its benefits are.

In short, a TMS is the link between the client, language service providers, freelance translators, terminologists, editors, and proofreaders.

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Its main components are a translation memory for each client that allows existing translations to be reused, a terminology database that ensures terms are translated consistently, and a translation tool to complete jobs in any format. Moreover, a TMS provides translation and quality management functions.

The open architecture of a TMS also makes it possible to connect various systems via interfaces, such as for content management, product information management, machine translation, or authoring assistance. This, in turn, allows you to set up a continuous process chain to seamlessly share data.

The Bottom Line

A company that wants to successfully expand internationally will need to have its website translated. In the real world, however, this project often requires a significant amount of manual work. Extracting content for the subsequent translation can be particularly tedious and error-prone. This work can be reduced significantly with the help of suitable technological tools, however.

One way to export content for translation is to use XLIFF files, which the translator can work with in their translation editor, regardless of the original format. Another, even faster option is to connect the content management system with the in-house translation management system via an interface. This eliminates the need to export and import XLIFF files and ensures that the content requiring translation is always up to date.