Using Umbraco Language Variants to reach a global audience

We recently got a sneak peek at version 8 of Umbraco CMS at Codegarden ’19, and were impressed by an exciting new feature to transform the delivery of multilingual content.

In a global world, having a multilingual website is a great way to expand your reach. However, building multilingual websites can be complex. Aside from the task of translating your content, important decisions need to be made about the structure of the website, how language options are presented to users and how URLs are composed.

At Screenmedia, we’ve already built multilingual sites using both past and current versions of Umbraco. For Marie Stopes International, we built a multi-site solution to support family planning service provision worldwide. For Insights, a global leader in people development, we also built a multi-site solution helping them achieve a 49% increase in web enquiries.

For the above solutions, a successful multilingual experience was built through a combination of custom code and third-party package integration. In version 8 of Umbraco CMS, new features tackle the above complexities making the journey to rolling out powerful, flexible and scalable international websites a whole lot smoother.

Introducing language variants

The latest major release of Umbraco (version 8) ships with a brand new set of tools and functionality called Language Variants. Language Variants provide built in support for variations in content throughout your website. Content editors familiar with the Umbraco back office of multilingual websites will know that managing multiple content trees, property editors or content tabs per country can be tricky. That is why Language Variants provides support for one single content tree for your website. Toggling between content variants is as simple as selecting from a dropdown and you can even perform side-by-side editing of your translations as well as switch between them in preview mode. On top of this, variants can be selectively published, you can choose to publish all or just a subset of your translated content. By clicking publish you can deliver content to all your markets worldwide. Alternatively, via the toggling of checkboxes, you can choose to publish content which is relevant to specific markets or countries.

Switching between different translations is as easy as picking from a dropdown

For admins and developers, adding support for a new language is done under the languages area of the settings. Under this section default languages, mandatory languages and even fall-back languages can be set in case issues are encountered when rendering content. As your business expands into new countries, this section can be revisited at any time to add support for new languages. Gone are the days of having to build an entirely new content tree for each new language you require!

Supported languages are easily controlled under the Umbraco settings


Granular control of default, mandatory and fall-back languages

With all required languages enabled, you can configure which page types you would like to vary by culture. There is even support for enabling/disabling variants at the property level. This level of granular control is great for content that only needs to be in one language, for example, copyright text or a company name.

With the above steps completed, the last step is to configure the hostnames. Under the Culture and Hostnames section you have full control over the domains for your site. For example, your website can be configured so that navigating to /fr serves up French content while /es delivers content for Spanish users. If geolocation-based redirects are implemented, the process of landing on a country site requires no manual intervention. The entire process can be transparent to the end user.

Configuring the domain names for each culture

One of the biggest tasks when creating a multilingual website is the translation of content. Of course, Umbraco’s great development community has already come up with a package to translate content automatically!

Language variants are a huge change to the core of Umbraco. At Screenmedia, we’re excited to get building and to play the all the new features version 8 of Umbraco has to offer. For a detailed walkthrough of Language Variants, see the video demo by Umbraco HQ.

Screenmedia are a certified Umbraco Gold Partner. If you want to hear more about multi-lingual websites, or how we're putting best practices to work to create powerful, beautiful websites, get in touch, we'd love to talk.



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