Bilingual Equality with a Splash Page

I’ve worked on a few education sites in Wales and bilingualism is one of the major challenges for any public sector site.

A multilingual site isn’t so hard. Most content management systems offer language switching – being on a page in one language and hopping across to view the equivalent piece of content in another. The difficulty comes with entering the site or managing the landing page experience.

So, on your bilingual site, what do you put on your home page? Most content management systems are set up to use a default or primary language with others as secondary options. They’re not treated equally. In Wales we’re supposed to give both Welsh and English equal status.

At one point I toyed with the idea of having bilingual pages – a 2 column layout with the 2 versions side by side. This is common in print and it works pretty well. On web pages it’s not so easy. Space can be very limited, especially on mobile. Loading and displaying additional content that will not be consumed is not really practical. It halves the value of your site – that’s value in real monetary terms if you’re paying for data downloaded. The other main point is that web pages just don’t work that way. A page needs to have a language set so that it can be searched and indexed by search engines. As soon as we mix languages, we’re probably killing any potential search rankings.

I’ve come up with a possible solution. I’m not sure it would work in all cases but for the school website I’m working on now it seems to tick all the boxes. I use a Splash Page. It’s normal use would be for special promotions. It’s a screen which interrupts your browsing before allowing you to continue to your usual entry page. Rather than a static promotional message I’m reading in the title of the target page in both languages and presenting them as options. So, the user chooses whether to continue in Welsh or English. Now, here’s the clever bit. The user’s language preference is stored in the browser (localStorage) and is used on future visits. If a preference has been set then the Splash Page will not appear again on that browser, within a specified time frame.

Using this Splash Page means that the user is never presented with a monolingual page without having first made a choice. We have achieved equality for both languages whilst not harming our search engine rankings. :)

The “Cheap Web Design” Market

cheap web designA look at what awaits “cheap web design” seekers.

I’ve been running my own web development business since 2004 and in that time I have noticed a few changes to this market. There’s far more competition now than there was a few years ago. If you do a Google search for “cheap web design“, “budget web design” or “affordable web design” then there are a lot of web pages out there with those page titles.

What I find curious is that the web design product or service being offered in this market and the pricing structures don’t seem to have moved on since 2004.

The vast majority of companies competing in this market still seem to be offering very basic static brochure sites. The process here is 1) the client sends text and images to the web designer, 2) the designer puts them in HTML pages, 3) repeat stages 1 and 2. This means that if the client needs to make a change to the website’s information – new products, price changes, news updates, etc. – he or she needs to go through the designer who probably charges a modest (if you’re lucky) fee for the work.

Much stranger than the product on offer though is the pricing structure. The majority of these seem to be sold as packages (design, hosting, email) based on the number of pages in the site. This makes no sense to me at all. It’s usual for all pages within a website to have a similar look and feel. They generally all use a common template which includes the header, footer and navigation menus along with any styles (fonts, colours, etc.) used throughout the site. Therefore, most of the web designer‘s work goes into creating this template. Once this is designed it makes little difference whether a website has 1 page or 100. It’s very curious then that so many of these companies offering “cheap web design” will offer, for example, a 4 page site for £150 but a 6 page site will set you back £350. That’s a £200 jump in price for what I’d estimate to be half an hour’s work. Cheap web design doesn’t have to mean a small website and a large website doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Chris Smith Web Development offers something different. I offer not static web pages but an installation of a content management system. This means that rather than having to come back to me to make changes to your pages you can simply log in and do it yourself, whenever and wherever you want to. No delays and no additional fees. The pricing is based on the template design so there’s no limit on how many pages you can have. All you have to do is log in, select the Write Page option, write your content, click on Publish and it’s there for the world to see, as many times as you like. You can go back and edit or delete pages, reorder them, change their titles whenever you want to.

Since 2004 I have moved on and have developed a better product. Static sites, charged for by the page, are no match for the flexibility and freedom offered by a content management system.

Content Management Systems explained

A different type of content managementYou’ve probably heard the phrase CMS or Content Management System. I’ll explain what it is and some of the benefits.

A CMS is a system which sits behind a website and allows you to edit a website easily. It’s called a content management system because it specifically allows changes to the content of the website – the text, images and links on pages – but not the layout or design, which stays fixed.

The usual method of changing web content is by logging in and gaining access to an admin or control panel. This gives options of creating, editing or deleting pages as well as setting up page order and hierarchy (which pages are sub-options of others).

When it comes to editing pages this is normally done through a visual or WYSIWYG editor, which is short for “What You See Is What You Get” so no knowledge of HTML or web page coding is required. It’s very easy to use, as easy as using Microsoft Word, probably easier. You write your page’s content in a large text area and have buttons to help with formatting – Bold, Italics, Underline, bullets, numbering, text alignment, indent, etc. You may be able to select from a limited range of fonts though this is usually controlled by the design template to ensure a consistent look and feel throughout the site. The best part is, you don’t even have to use the WYSIWYG editor – you can simply paste your content from another application, like Word.

As well as working with text you can insert various media – images, video clips, audio files, Flash.

So, what are the benefits? Well, the main benefit is that anyone can use it which means that your site can be managed by anyone. In a medium or large company that means anyone in a team, not just the IT person or contracted web design company. For a small private site it gives you full freedom to control your content and changes happen instantly – no more waiting for the web designer to make your changes.

If you’re still using a static website and relying on someone else to update it, it’s time to take control and manage your own content.