Best Practices

Starting a Multi-Language CMS Localization Project

When approaching content management system (CMS) localization, it’s important to note that strategies will differ drastically from one company to another. What works for one vendor or business partner may not be best for your own needs.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

When approaching content management system (CMS) localization, it’s important to note that strategies will differ drastically from one company to another. What works for one vendor or business partner may not be best for your own needs.

The majority of your plan will depend on the tools both native and compatible with your CMS. When working on a CMS localization project, there are two big factors that will dictate your strategy–the platform you use and the import/export file types.

CMS Localization by Content and Import/Export File Types

There are four major CMSes consistently used: Adobe Experience Manager, WordPress, Drupal, and Sitecore. Each one requires a different approach to architecture and specific file formats for importing and exporting text.  

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)

AEM has a translation framework that's a native part of the program. That means that the entire architecture is already available; you just have to configure it. Once completed, you can enjoy a near-automatic localization process where you import and export XML files that will render predictably, taking the burden off of the developer's shoulders.


WordPress doesn't have a native translation framework. You can use a connector or the WordPress multilingual plugin, but you'll have to build out the architecture yourself. However, since this is such a popular platform, many translation agencies, including Bureau Works, have developed their own connectors and programs to establish the architecture for multilingual website translation.


Drupal is very similar to WordPress in terms of translation capabilities but operates off of modules as opposed to plugins. One of the first modules users will need to download is the internationalization module, which will support the taxonomy and menu system for multiple languages.    


Sitecore, like AEM, makes localization a key focus of its platform, which is managed through a content tree system. Users can either set up separate trees for each locale or use a shared tree for all content. They can also take a hybrid approach where they use both shared and siloed trees. This allows for more flexibility for changing content and structure by language. When choosing a CMS, it’s important to consider how it handles the import/export format you use. This will determine how easily you can preserve your code when translating a CMS. There are four common formats you'll see in translation:

Extensible Markup Language (XML)

This format is both human- and machine-readable, making it very useful in translation projects. It’s relatively easy to decipher between code and content when proper tags and segmentation are used.

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)

Like XML, JSON is also both human- and machine-readable. JSON is particularly useful in the transmission of information, so it's commonly the default option in a CMS.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is probably one of the most familiar coding formats, given its standard use among web pages. Translating HTML files can be a bit of a challenge, but there is a translate attribute that allows users to note which text to translate and which to avoid.

Comma-Separated Value (CSV)

CSV should not be used for translation since this format is mainly made up of text data that is separated by commas. The system is unable to differentiate grammatical commas from code-related commas, so it is very easy to break translation files.The entire strategy for translating your content is going to rely on these two factors. Each CMS will require a different approach, as will each file format. You’ll also have to consider your overall goals, languages, and the flexibility you'll need for each page. Altogether, it's a tremendous job that requires a measured approach.  

Starting Small for Localization Success

Regardless of what platform or file type you choose, there is one best practice for CMS localization that will hold true across any project–take a slow and steady approach. Don't try to translate a massive 500-page website all at once; start small with just some landing pages and other high-priority content and test it out using that content. This will allow you to work out bugs and resolve issues upfront.

CMS localization is a massive undertaking, but the right strategy and tools will help you streamline it. That’s why it’s important to work with a translation agency that's familiar with the ins and outs of most, if not all, platforms and file types. That way, you can be sure that both your content and code will make the transition to new markets successfully.

Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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