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Webmasters - Formatting pages for translation

When you are creating a website, the idea of it being translated into several other languages may not be uppermost in your mind, or there may be reasons why you prefer to keep it in the original language only. However, if you do plan to present your information in several languages, you should take the language-related aspects into account right from the drafting stage. This will save you a lot of time when you have to maintain the site after translation, and it will help the translators to provide you with the highest standard of product.

Here are some tips on setting-up a multilingual website and working with the translators which the DGT's webmasters have compiled for you.


Creating a multilingual website

  1. Leave some room on your screen.
    If possible, try to avoid filling your screen up to the last centimetre with information. Since translations (especially from English into another language) can be longer than the original, the presentation might not look as nice as your original or, in the worst case, might become a mess.
  2. Use the "include" function of FrontPage for repetitive text
    It helps to keep maintenance low and consistency high. The files included could be named with an i_ at the beginning so that the translator knows that the text concerned is to be inserted into several documents. If and when you need to modify it, only the "include" file will have to be updated and sent again for translation, i.e. it will take you and the translator much less time and effort.
  3. Wherever possible use styles and avoid hard encoded formatting information.
    This not only keeps your file size down but makes it much easier for the translator to concentrate on the text without having to bother with its formatting. With the tools we have, we cannot add, remove or move tags easily within the text.
  4. Prefer plain text to images.
    We know that text images are very popular amongst webmasters, but keep in mind that the DGT cannot handle them. If you use images with text, create one for each language and use the very same text as "alt" description so that you can copy paste it into the image afterwards. And another tip: be generous with the image size, since more space might be needed for the target language.
  5. Use relative table, cell, box sizes.
    Text length in other languages will vary and nothing is more frustrating for the reader than having just half of the text visible on screen or overwritten by other text. So whenever possible, try to avoid absolute sizes. This also applies, of course, to JavaScript menus.

Preparing your website for translation

  1. Create text images for each language version. Even if you don't yet have the translation, it is good practice to create an image file with the correct extension from the outset (_da.gif, _de.gif). See also "prefer plain text to images" and the previous tip.
  2. Put alphabetical lists into the correct order for each language after translation. Translators have no way of modifying the order in which the information is presented. So don't forget to do it after translation.

  3. If you send your page for translation via the CWCMS translation module, translations will be automatically imported into CWCMS and you'll only need to adapt link information of those translations.

  4. If you are sending your translation request manually via Poetry, you receive your translations via e-mail. When making a Poetry requestRestricted area: This link points to internal pages and may not work if you are browsing as an external user., specify clearly where the text is to be posted, i.e. give the full URL (

  5. Be aware that currently, translators are instructed not to modify link information, therefore the links of delivered translations are based on the original version you sent for translation and need to be adapted after translation.

Links policy: Language icons and links

Particular attention should be paid when linking to a page with content in a different language. The relevant language icon should be inserted in order to ensure better usability and smooth access to information.

Language selection tool

It must be present on all pages. The language selection tool provides the only means of horizontal navigation between languages. It also provides an indication of which language versions exist.

Multilingual templates

The translations in the templates are official and mandatory.