Cross-linking

Linking every page on your site to the corresponding page in another languages, is by far the most complicated part of development — and the aspect where the most mistakes are made. Here I will discuss the most important do's and don'ts.

Do not use flags to links to other languages
There are several reasons why this is not a good idea (the article by Jon Wedderburn sums up five of them), but the most important one is this: flags represent countries or regions, not languages. Use text, and if you don’t have the space for that, use ISO63-2 (three letters) or ISO63-1 (two letters) Language Codes. The Library of Congress has a complete list you can use as a reference.

Not convinced? Visit the Front against Language Flags and you’ll understand… [website does not exist anymore; here’s a reconstruction].

Use the target language to indicate choices of language
Let’s say you are an English speaking visitor and you land on a page in Greek. Fortunately, the page is also available in other languages, including English. On the top right, there’s a list of available languages. Which list is easier for you? And which one is easier for a Russian visitor? Remember that not everybody speaks English!

Ελληνικά

Αγγλικά

Γερμανός

Γάλλος

Ρωσικός

Wrong

Greek

English

German

French

Russian

Wrong

Ελληνικά

English

Deutsch

Français

Русский

Right


Wintranslation published a list a of language names in their native scripts.

Make the links to other languages easy to find
It appears like the first place a visitor will look for it is the top right corner. This not always easy to achieve in RapidWeaver. Maybe there's an ExtraContent container you can use. If not, look for another logical place. Try to avoid the space below the 'fold' to prevent people from scrolling to see it, and never use drop down menus that need user interaction to show the links!

Another place to consider is the menu. Especially with a horizontal menu, the last menu item would be a good place, but with most responsive sites the menu will be hidden by default on smaller screens…

Make the links to other languages point a the equivalent page in the other language, not the home page
Although it may be tempting to use an offsite page linking to the home page in the other language, it's not a good idea. Your visitor is likely to be interested in the information on that page, not so much your site in general. It may also be difficult to find the right page from there. Unless of course you use my LangMenu Stack. See the side bar on the right for more information.

Whatever place and method you choose, every page needs its own links to the other languages. That's a lot of work making, testing and maintaining — and there's no easy way out!
Something not clear? Found a mistake? Got a suggestion to improve this tutorial? Please let me know.
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