Disadvantages to Using Two CMS Installs to Deliver a Bilingual Site



July 17, 2007

I've noticed a few sites now are trying to produce a bilingual site by taking a basic install of a blog like WordPress and setting up a unique instance for every language that they want to use. There may be times where this is a reasonable solution, but for most organizations I think the long term costs will be much higher than the short term savings.

By using Drupal for managing your content the maintenance and work-flow of a multilingual site will be considerably easier for most users.

Setting up two versions of a Content Management System (CMS) in different directories, but will add complications to maintaining the software as it is very likely that there will be slightly different code running between the two sites.

Depending on the CMS you choose it might be possible to set up your bilingual site so that there are two different databases organized for both the English & French sites, but that they share the same code. If this is the case then there will still likely be slightly different settings and data between the two sites depending on exactly how it is set up. If you've got a very disciplined bilingual administrators than this is something that can likely be overcome, but you are still likely to find that the sites don't always behave the same way (since they aren't the same site).

You would also need to maintain two lists of users between the two sites as the authentication wouldn't be shared in most instances.

There are a lot of variations when people are talking about what they mean when they go looking for a multi-lingual website.

  • Should it behave like a Government of Canada site or are the English/French essentially serving two different audiences and don't need to be closely linked together?
  • What happens when you have English content but no French content, how you deal with translations & versions?
  • Will you be able to tell what was changed when a document is edited in English or will it all need to get sent to get re-translated?
  • The work-flow involved in maintaining a bilingual site is complicated and having tools like Drupal makes this easier.

If you have a content editor who is willing to manually establish links between your two sites, you should be able to manage your multi-lingual content, however if you decide to your CMS to Drupal down the line will be quite time consuming because there won't be any relationship in the database between the content.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.