For all those who wish to develop a multilingual site under WordPress, WPML is one of the essential extensions. Present on the market since 2007 and benefiting from 600,000 customers, WPML, short for WordPress Multilingual Plugin, makes it possible to create a WordPress website in several languages in an orderly fashion. Thus, you will be able to manage your blog pages and articles independently in the languages you have chosen beforehand.
WPML is a paying plugin that you must activate on the developer’s site, once your purchase is made. The process also includes the installation of several other extensions according to the plan you have chosen and according to the characteristics of your website: “Translation Managment”, “String Translation”, “WooCommerce multilingual”, “Media translation”. Then go to the WordPress dashboard and click on “Extensions” to activate each extension. For my part, the installation was done without any problem.
The implementation of the plugin and the configuration of the whole according to the needs is quite complicated. Some options are sometimes difficult to understand. When in doubt, it is always better to leave the default settings, or read the WPML documentation for more details.
Three annual plans proposed
The most economical Blog Multilingual Plan costs $29 ($21 for annual renewal). It is presented as ideal for those who have a simple blog and to do the translations themselves.
The Multilingual CMS plan is the one I bought. It is much more complete and not yet too expensive: $79 ($59 for annual renewal). It is much more complete since it benefits from WooCommerce integration, supports page builders, has automatic translation, offers the translation of the theme and Widgets, and the license allows the installation on 3 different websites.
For independent developers, if they purchase this plan to build sites for resale to their clients, they will receive a double reward for each client who pays for a renewal: a $20 credit for renewing their own account and an additional free site.
Finally, the Multilingual Agency plan is available for $159 ($119 for annual renewal) and allows the installation of the WPML extension on an unlimited number of websites.
Each of these three plans offers free technical support per ticket (available 6 days a week, in 9 languages), free updates and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
All plans also offer browser language detection, a feature generally referred to as “localization”, in order to provide users with content that automatically corresponds to their own language (an option that can be disabled).
Note that WPML configures your site to accommodate multiple languages, but this is not free translation software. Translations of your blog pages and articles will either have to be done by yourself or purchased according to the number of characters you need.
This being said, you benefit from a small free character credit (except for the Multilingual Blog plan), which is renewed every month. You can also perform a translation test to judge for yourself.
WPML allows you to easily translate categories and tags, widgets, forms, pages, or any other custom taxonomy you might use. Simply go to the WordPress menu “WPML” then “Taxonomy Translations” to customize the categories, tags or labels.
WPML offers extensive customization of the navigation menus: choice of colors, presence or absence of flags, menu scrolling mode, among other options. A page or blog article will only be accessible in this navigation menu if it has been translated beforehand, which is logical and prevents site visitors from finding themselves on a page under construction or a page displaying a 404 error.
URLs generated by WPML
An important parameter is the possibility to choose the structure of the URLs displayed according to the different languages chosen. A common concern is to determine what is the best URL configuration from the point of view of SEO by Google. With WPML, you have three options:
- URLs defined according to the language directory,
- different sub-domains per language,
- a language parameter added at the end of the URL.
I prefer the first solution, that of the language directory, for two reasons: it is “cleaner” and it seems the best for referencing because the website then benefits from an international implantation in a very natural way. This would give for example, for the part of the website written in French, the following URL: “www.exemple.com/fr/”. This solution leads to other options to choose from, concerning your Home Page.
The 2nd solution, that of the different sub-domains per language, has a particularity according to Google’s criteria: each of these sub-domains is considered as a site in its own right. It is therefore an SEO strategy totally opposed to the first solution. Your different homepages would then become: “www.fr.exemple.com”, “www.en.exemple.com”, “www.es.exemple.com”.
The third solution seems to be the least favorable for a good SEO because it is unclear and mixes all the URLs in a single directory. Your URLs will end with “?lang=en” for articles you wrote in English, or “?lang=es” for articles in Spanish.
Wanting to choose the first solution, I was hesitant to choose it at first because I had a warning message written in red telling me that this solution was probably not going to work because of the location of WordPress files or the writing permissions granted to WPML. I then contacted support who replied that there were often false positives. I can certify that everything has been working perfectly from the start.
The WooCommerce Multilingual plugin
This free extension allows WooCommerce to work with WPML. In addition to translating all WooCommerce products, as well as translating categories and attributes, this plugin allows to keep the same language throughout the payment process and to send emails to customers and administrators in their own language.
This extension also allows to track the inventory without having to divide the same product in several languages, or to manage a single WooCommerce store with several currencies depending on the language or the localization of the customer. Finally, this extension makes it possible to activate different payment gateways depending on the location of a customer.
The WooCommerce Multilingual extension is fully compatible with the most popular extensions including WooCommerce Bookings, WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping, WooCommerce Subscriptions, WooCommerce Product Add-ons and WooCommerce Tab Manager.
So we can see that WPML has done a serious work on the compatibility of the various extensions related to WooCommerce. But this compatibility does not stop here, since WPML has established a list classified by themes of all the extensions tested and guaranteed as compatible, an impressive list available on this page of the editor.
In summary, WPML offers interesting and very reliable services for a reasonable price, but it will take some time to master all the possibilities. In case you do not wish to make an annual renewal, WPML will continue to function normally, except that you will no longer be entitled to updates of the plugin. In all cases, the translations remain entirely your property.