5 Ways a CMS Can Help Your Business

May 26th, 2009 admin

A Content Management System (CMS) can make your business more successful – let’s see how!

1. Fresh and timely contents

How long does it take you to create a completely new section for a new product on your website?

A CMS lets you add contents without sweating over the site’s structure. You don’t need to worry about navigation, links between pages, sitemaps, etc.

Just enter the new contents and hit publish. Any modern content management system lets you dedicate all your time to managing contents, without worrying about anything else.

This means that your marketing and support material is always ready on time and never lag behind the products and services.

2. Getting readers involved

The biggest challenge for any website is getting visitors involved. You want to turn that collection of passive one-time visitors into an active community. A community where people care to visit back, speak their mind and await your message.

That’s easier said than done. So, how can you do it?

Let people influence your website and your business. Let them tell you what they need and show them you care about it. That’s how!

Content management systems have many tools for doing just this. When your website is dynamic, it allows a two way dialog, rather than a dull lecture. Here are some of the tools you can use:

  • Comments – in both pages and posts, let your visitors leave you feedback.
  • Polls – ask questions, let people respond and show what others have voted.
  • Forums – create an open room for discussion where visitors can communicate freely and where everyone sees how well you respond.

3. Make it easy to remember you

Everyone is busy, sometimes a bit too much. People visit you, get excited and then wonder off. It’s not because they’re not interested, but because they have other things that grabbed their attention.

You can help by making it easy to receive updates from you. An email newsletter and an RSS feed are great ways to send your word out and help busy people engaged.

How much more business will you get if five visitors signed up to your newsletter every day?

A content management system will help you create your newsletter with ease. Blog posts can turn into great newsletter contents, delivered without any effort.

4. Make a better impression

A CMS includes basic facilities that will make your site look better, leave a better impressing and do a better job of selling you.

  • Spell checking
  • Clear navigation
  • No broken links
  • Clean HTML

Sounds simple, but how much time do you need to spend making sure your site is clean without using a content management system?

5. Rank better in search engines

This is actually a result of all the other advantages. Search engines like the same thing as visitors. They love fresh and updating contents, a clean site free of technical errors and sitemaps.

Since a content management system already delivers all these, both visitors and search engines become happier. A simple thing such as allowing users to contribute contents (in the form of comments) can make your site’s pages rank higher.

Search engines see that it’s fresh, get notified when there’s an update and treat your site as something that needs more attention. Try it and you’ll see for yourself.

Want to move to a CMS?

We’re running a program that helps migrate existing sites to content management system. It doesn’t matter how it’s built, we can put it on a CMS in no time.

The two content management systems we’re working on are WordPress and Drupal. Each has its own strengths.

It’s something that we’ve started doing a few months ago, when clients asked us to translate static HTML sites or sites built with their own PHP. We saw that it’s just way easier to spend a few days migrating to a strong CMS and continue from there than invent the wheel each time.

Interested? You can leave a comment here or (better) contact us.

Posted in CMS, Marketing, Website tips | 1 Comment »

Building websites that are easy to translate

March 3rd, 2009 admin

Websites contain text and styling. As it turns out, the site’s styling determines how easy it will be to translate it.

When you build your site, it’s important to keep in mind that one day, you may need to translate it. This means that the same pages will have to display nicely when the text changes. I’d like to talk about a few problems that we see repeating. Understanding those problems amounts to 90% of the solution. The rest is common sense.

Images and Flash as text

I’ve already covered this issue before and I’m far from being the only one talking about it. While the W3 guidelines suggest supplying alternative texts for images, you can usually skip the images altogether and achieve the same visual design using just text and CSS. It may take a bit more effort, but the rewards are great.

When translating images, translators can only supply the text that needs to appear. Then, a graphic artist needs to rebuild all images to include the translation. It’s pretty obvious that this kind of work is much more time consuming (and prone to errors) than just translating text.

Fixed size elements

All too often, graphics designers like to set exact size for elements on the screen. It starts with fixed sizes for fonts and continues with exact width and height for boxes (DIVs, table cells, etc.). With some luck such a website would look the same on different browsers (although normally they don’t). However, once translated, things tend to break up completely.

German is typically 1.5 times longer than English. So, how would it be possible to squeeze in more characters to the exact same area?

What happens with such formatting is that text spills out, boxes run over each other and nothing looks as is should. To avoid it, always go for flexible layouts. Keep objects positioned relative to each other and not in absolute locations. Never assume any relation between the size of text and images and never use cell height.

Then, test. Try your website with a different font size and see what happens. If you can increase the size by at least 50% and then reduce it by at least 50% and things still display correctly, you’re in good shape.

Sentences that are broken by HTML entities

Consider this paragraph:

“Trucks are larger than cars so they weigh more.”

It’s pretty easy to translate. Now, what happens if I put this into a table, like this one:

<table><tr><td>Trucks are larger than</td>
<td>cars so they weigh more.</td></tr></table>

What I did is take that one sentence and place it into two table rows. Maybe I did that because I tried to make the two parts of that sentence appear one below the other. Who knows?

The result is, I now have two sentence fragments to translate, each making very little sense by itself. Even worse is the translation might now fit so nicely into that structure that I arranged.

The solution is obvious. Just don’t do it. Use other means to style the page, just don’t force texts into this kind of structure.

Conclusions

Building a website that’s easy to translate is very simple. All that it takes is attention to the fact that text size may change. Running a simple experiment on your site before you have it translated can save a lot of time, money and stress.

Posted in Drupal, Website tips, WordPress | No Comments »

ICanLocalize Translator now free for non-profits

March 2nd, 2009 admin

ICanLocalize TranslatorICanLocalize Translator, the Drupal translation management tool, is now offered for free to non-profit organizations, to be used as a translation collaboration tool.

Many non-profit organizations build their website using open source content management systems. It’s not a surprise that leading open source projects, such as Ubuntu and government sites such as Recovery.org are powered by Drupal. Powerful features, ease of use and being free make it a great choice.

But, what happens when these sites need to speak several languages? It’s only natural to expect Recovery.gov to speak both English and Spanish. Canonical, offering Ubuntu with full localization to dozens of languages, might want to offer its website in more than just English.

Why do we see such popular sites only in English?

Translation is an ongoing task. As long as new contents are created and old contents update, translation must continue. The cost of managing the translation often exceeds the cost of doing the translation. While it’s possible to assign different translators and even whole teams of translators to work on a Drupal site, translation management often falls on the shoulders of a single admin – already overloaded with work.

ICanLocalize Translator is a Drupal module which solves this problem. It releases site admins from any management work due to translation. It checks which pages need to be translated from scratch and which pages need update. Then, it sends the right contents for translation. In essence, it allows running a multilingual Drupal site without spending any time managing translation.

Authors can write contents in their language and entire site’s translation is handled by the system.

Pricing options for commercial use

  1. Full turnkey solution costs just 0.07 USD per word. ICanLocalize provides the translators and makes the translation system available for no additional charge.
  2. Clients can use their own translators and pay 5 USD per page for using the system.

And now, ICanLocalize Translator is offered for free to non-profits!

We’ve just added a 3rd plan for using the translation system. ICanLocalize Translator is made 100% free to be used as a translation collaboration tool for non profit organizations.

We’re using open source tools to create and run our business and want to contribute something back. The least we can do is make our own translation tool available for free for the exact same organization who’s work has made it possible for us to built our service. We hope that many open source projects and the organizations running them would take advantage of this offer and make their websites accessible to the world.

How to take advantage of this offer?

Webmasters, marketing folks and anyone involved in running the website are encouraged to contact us. We’ll be more than happy to give a private tour of the system.

You can read more about it in drupal-translation.com, where we teach how to build a multilingual website using Drupal and how to use ICanLocalize Translator to automate the translation process.

Posted in Drupal, News, Website tips | No Comments »

New web-guide teaches how to build multilingual Drupal sites

February 10th, 2009 admin

Drupal Translation is a new online guide dedicated to teaching how to build multilingual sites with Drupal.

A resource for Drupal webmasters

Anyone building a multilingual site with Drupal could find something useful in Drupal Translation. It starts with the basics, including which modules to install and how to configure them and continues to more advanced material such as taxonomy and CCK translation.

What’s in the guide?

The i18n module modifies the site’s database structure and many of the admin pages. Its features are distributed across different sections, such as content administration, content entry and display setup. This guide will walk you through the multilingual features, explain the difference between various options and show how to set things up coherently.

In addition to the i18n module, Drupal Translation also introduces the ICanLocalize Translator module, which works together with i18n to facilitate the translation itself by sending contents to translators and storing translation results back in the Drupal database.

Drupal-Translation.com will always be ‘work in progress’

As Drupal and the localization modules update, so does Drupal Translation.

New, more advanced material is constantly added and contents update as new Drupal versions are released.

Available in English, German and Spanish

Drupal Translation itself is a Drupal site. Its multilingual contents are maintained using the i18n module and translation is being done using ICanLocalize Translator, which is currently available in Beta.

Posted in CMS, Drupal, Website tips | 1 Comment »

How Should I Build a New Website?

January 13th, 2009 admin

A few years ago, building a website was a straight forward task. You’d get a template, put in your text and upload to a web server.

Today, everyone wants to benefit from new technologies and build dynamic websites which interact with visitors. There’s a good reason too. When visitors can communicate with you, via your website, they become more involved. When visitors are active, there’s a much greater chance that they also become your customers.

Evaluate your needs and capabilities

1) Decide what you want your website to do

This seems trivial, but is often forgotten. Different website building platforms have different capabilities. These often include:

  • Static pages
  • News (a.k.a, a blog)
  • Forums
  • Members only sections
  • A support center
  • Resources for download

2) Evaluate your technical skills and how much you’re willing to spend

Do you know this saying?  – “there’s no such thing as a free meal“. It’s true today just as it was when it was last conceived – a long time ago.

Even if you use free software to build your website, you’re still going to pay for it. It’s going to cost you both time and money. We use the standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack to build our sites and still pay substancial sums to keep things up and running.

Evaluate correctly and honestly how much you’re willing to spend, both in terms of your own time and in terms of money before you choose a web development platform. We’ll get to that back in a minute.

3) Decide how long you’re willing to wait

Some platforms have a very active community with excellent folks that you can hire right away and get started. Other platforms are less popular, with a smaller community. You may end up with excellent results but need to wait a bit more until it’s ready.

It’s important that you come prepared with a realistic schedule.

Choose a platform

We’ve been doing extensive work on two great web development platforms:

Of course, there are other excellent alternatives, but I’d like to talk about what we’re intimately familiar with.

WordPress as a great Content Management System (CMS)

WordPress started a few years ago as a blogging platform and has evolved into a full featured CMS.

What makes WordPress a great CMS, and a great tool for building complete websites:

  1. It’s dead easy to install and use.
  2. Got thousands of free and non-free templates (see some ideas for WordPress CMS themes).
  3. Got thousands of excellent plugins (check out this list of plugins that turn WordPress into a CMS).
  4. It’s editor is probably best in kind and keeps getting better.

What’s missing from WordPress when used to build full websites:

  1. No multilingual content support (you can get around this by using ICanLocalize Translation System).
  2. No built in facilities for building usable site-wide navigation (among other solutions, you can use our WordPress CMS plugins).

Bottom line:

WordPress can be a great solution for building complete websites. It’s great for small businesses who want a great looking and highly functional website but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars creating and running it.

A single person can be in change for site maintenance and content management. For a small fee, you’ll find great web designers who will build a WordPress theme for you which will make your business website look professional.

Drupal – a top notch CMS

When people think about CMS, the first thing that comes to mind is Joomla!. Why are we talking about a less known system such as Drupal?

Drupal has been designed for heavy lifting. As such, it places an emphasis on infastructure, sometimes willing to sacrifice ease of use. Here is what makes Drupal great:

  1. It can do anything you’d ever dream from a website.
  2. It never breaks or wrinkles.
  3. Once set up, running a Drupal based site is as smooth as it gets.
  4. There aren’t any shortcuts, meaning, everything is always in place. If you hired a developer to set up your Drupal site and then changed developer, he’ll have no trouble at all picking up where it left off. This isn’t a minor feature for a business website!
  5. It comes built in to handle multilingual contents. If you want to further simplify things and automate the translation process, you can try the ICanLocalize Translator module for Drupal.

The obvious cons for building a site with Drupal come from its nature:

  1. Unless you’re a Drupal professional, there’s no way you can set up a Drupal site.

That’s it really and it’s not a very bad thing. Letting a pro create and administer your site is probably a pretty good decision for any business, regardless of its budget.

Bottom line:

If you can afford it and need the strengh Drupal affords, it’s an excellent choice and any website.

Posted in Business, Website tips | No Comments »

Using WordPress? Try WPMU for Multi-lingual Websites!

December 31st, 2008 admin

wpmu-logoWPMU lets you run several WordPress based websites with a single installation and a single administration panel. Typically, it’s used to build blog farms but it’s also a great tool for running multi-lingual sites.

What’s WordPress MU (WPMU)?

WPMU is an extension for WordPress, allowing to run multiple WordPress sites from a single install and with a single administration login. We’ve already written here about how to install WordPress for multiple language blogs. WPMU is a much more systematic approach for running multiple blogs from the same code, sharing plugins and themes.

Besides sharing the same install directory, WPMU includes essential management for administrating multiple blogs from one central admin panel.

How can WPMU help build multi-lingual websites?

This is what we’ll do:

  • Run each language as an independent blog within the WPMU install.
  • Use the ICanLocalize Translation system to synchronize between contents in different languages.

If you want to see exactly how to do this, follow this detailed guide for using WPMU to run multilingual websites.

What’s good with this approach?

The best thing about building your multi-lingual WordPress site with WPMU is that everything just falls into place.

WordPress is designed to serve contents in a single language. Some plugins aim to provide multi-lingual support by duplicating tables and adding custom fields. These things work, but require major changes throughout WordPress. As a result, they’re very sensitive to WordPress updates and often cause conflicts with other plugins or with code in themes.

When you run each language in its own blog, everything works as intended. Each blog runs a single language, without any changes to the normal tables. The collection of blogs, implemented by WPMU provides the multi-lingual experience.

WPMU can be used to create full multi-lingual websites, not just blogs!

WordPress, although started as a blogging platform can be used to create full websites. We’re using it for our developers site, and our digital photography software site. WPMU makes it possible to do the same and create great multi-lingual sites.

A recent entry in our developers site shows how to use WordPress as CMS, by setting a static home page and assigning the blog page to a different page. The same thing can be applied to WPMU, when each blog instance is serving a different language.

Posted in Website tips, WordPress | 2 Comments »

Spanish Variant to Choose for Website Translation

November 5th, 2008 Amir

Spanish is spoken differently around the world. Which Spanish variant should you choose when translating your website?

No widely spoken language is spoken the same everywhere, US and UK English, French and, to a larger extent, Spanish. Each region it is spoken in adds their own flavour to it, changing accents, meanings of words and grammatical constructions.

This results is what may sometimes seem like a completely new language. Volado – Spanish past perfect of fly. Are you sure? In Columbia it means angry, in El Salvador it is an object. So how do we request a translation and ensure the document will be easily read by Spanish speakers from so many different parts of the world?

There is no correct or better Spanish; we simply try to use a Spanish which is comprehensible to all, despite what is spoken in a particular region day to day. Man rather than lad, guy, dude or bro. This concept of a standard Spanish variation has not surprisingly been named “Neutral Spanish”.
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Posted in Culture, Website tips | 2 Comments »

Text as Images in Web Pages

October 14th, 2008 Amir

Often we see texts appearing as images in websites. These texts will make localization more difficult and costly and can easily be avoided.

What does ‘text as images’ mean?

A web page can contain many different elements, such as texts, graphics, Flash and other embedded objects. It’s possible to create things that appear the same way using different techniques.

For example, the following ‘Download’ button:

Text version Graphics version

Although these two buttons look very similar, they are in fact quite different. One is the text ‘Download’, formatted to appear like 3D button and the other is an image, in which the word ‘Download’ is drawn.

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Posted in Guides, Website tips | No Comments »

SEO comes before translation

August 12th, 2008 Amir

Search Engine Optimization is not witchcraft. It’s just letting search engines understand your website.

When you translate your website, you’re actually duplicating its contents in multiple languages. So, it’s a good idea to fix it up before doing that. The first major fixup you should do is to make your site clearer for search engines – the fancy name for this is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

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Posted in Guides, Website tips | No Comments »

Character Encoding 101

August 12th, 2008 Amir

ñ
All English characters can be represented using a single byte. So, if all your text is in English, you probably never needed to pay much attention to what’s called “character encoding”.

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Posted in Guides, Website tips | 3 Comments »

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