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5 Steps to Get Your Drupal Site Multilingual Ready

November 1st, 2017

The following blog was written by Drupal Association Premium Technology Partner, Lingotek.

Everyone is jumping on the localization bandwagon because it’s dawning on enterprises everywhere that creating site content in a customer’s language is one way to personalize their experience and improve engagement. That means more organizations are going to prioritize making their Drupal websites multilingual, so we’ve created a handy checklist to help you get ready.

From Module Mayhem to Built-in Language Support

Drupal 7 is a very stable and well-used content management platform and it supports a vast array of modules, but it wasn’t built with multilingual in mind. Making a Drupal 7 site multilingual can be a time-intensive process for developers. To address this issue, the Drupal community went to work to rebuild language support. Drupal 8 was created to understand language from the beginning. Custom or contributed modules or themes don’t have to understand language support--it’s already built in.

Drupal 8 is a great platform to work with, not only because it is so multilingual capable out-of-the-box, but also because you can easily expand while maintaining the translatability of your data. The Drupal 8 multilingual core paves the way for more automation, more seamless workflows, and better publication management.

Whether you use Drupal 7 or Drupal 8, every Drupal developer who works with contributed or custom modules designed for multilingual or non-English sites needs to know how to build the best integration possible.

To make your path to global engagement and localization easier, we’ve created a checklist for getting your Drupal site multilingual ready in five steps.

Step 1: Understand Your Site

First step in your multilingual prep is to understand your site! Take a look at your customizations, nodes, fields, and modules so you have an idea of the size and scope of your multilingual prep. Let’s be honest though, most of us will never really know our sites completely. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Start your multilingual readiness by taking a look at your theme, content, and modules.

Step 2: Examine Your Theme

Next step, review any customizations you have. Make sure all strings are wrapped in a t() function. You need to ensure both your base and sub-themes are multilingual ready. It helps if you use a well-established, multilingual-ready base theme like Zen, BootStrap3, etc.

Step 3: Think About Your Content

Figure out how many nodes are on your site and familiarize yourself with how and where they are used. Find out how many different content types you have and make note of diverse custom fields. The more types of content, the more complex your site translation will be. It’s also important to know how many languages are currently on the site, so check your node language settings. If they aren’t set up correctly, it can lead to translation barriers down the road.

Step 4: Rein In Your Modules

Find out how many modules are installed on your site. For multilingual, the fewer modules installed, the better! When it comes to contributed modules, you’ve got to rein them in. Too many modules can compromise functionality and interfere with site translation. Limit your modules to those that you really need and use. It’s best to have as few as you can (under 200). Be sure to code review your custom modules to ensure all strings are properly wrapped in t() functions.

Step 5: Examine Potential Trouble Spots

There are some additional areas that have the potential to become trouble spots. They may not affect large portions of your site, but it’s good to know where you might run into issues. Take a moment to inspect the following areas to ensure your Drupal site’s multilingual readiness:

  • URL Aliases
  • Taxonomy Terms
  • Blocks
  • Fieldable Panels Panes
  • Mini-panels
  • Groups
  • Views

Every Drupal developer who works with contributed or custom modules designed for multilingual or non-English sites needs to know how to build the best integration possible. It’s also good for Drupal themers who want to make their theme templates translation-ready and for those who want to know how to build Drupal multilingual support for modules, themes, and distributions. By doing a little upfront prep, and following this short 5-step checklist, you will be ready to join the legions who are making the switch to multilingual.

Learn more about integrating translation in your site, check out the Lingotek - Inside Drupal Module.

Written by Calvin Scharffs