Websites: from static to dynamic

When planning and generating a website, it is important to think in terms of the future and what we want to achieve. Not all websites have the same purposes, so we have to define these before we start to avoid regretting our decisions later on. This brings us to one of the major questions we face when creating a new website: What difference is there between a static and dynamic website? How will this decision affect me in the future? Below you will find everything you need to know to stay a step ahead and avoid obstacles when you have to translate or localize your website:

What difference is there between a static and dynamic website?

In general terms, websites can be either static or dynamic. In this context, “static” means unchanging or constant, whereas “dynamic” means changing or updated periodically. Thus, static websites contain the same content each time you load them, while the content in dynamic websites can be generated on the go.

In many cases, users can see whether a website is static or dynamic by simply looking at the file extension in the URL, which will be shown in the address field of the web browser. If this is “.htm” or “.html” (HyperText Markup Language”, the website is probably static. However if the extension is “.php”, “.asp” or “.jsp” the website is more likely to be dynamic.

Standard HTML websites are static. They contain HTML code that defines the structure and contents of the website and these remain the same each time it is loaded. The only way to change the content of a website written in HTML is for the developer to update it and publish the corresponding file.

Dynamic websites contain what is known as “server-side code” that allows the server to generate unique code each time the website is loaded.  Many dynamic websites use this “server-side code” to access information from a database and use it to generate website content. Certain systems are available to create and maintain these types of dynamic websites, but are only intended to publish them, while development takes place in another type of specialized tool, such as Dreamweaver. These creation and maintenance systems are known as Content Management Systems or CMS and some of the most popular are WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and Plone, etc.

How does this affect localization?

The pros and cons of localizing these websites also depends on the type of website involved. If the website is static, it is very easy and simply consists in sending all the “.html” files to be translated. HTML tags follow a standard, although some systems can personalize the standard without following it exactly.  The most common CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools “understand” standard HTML and block the tags that do not need to be translated, so the translator works only with the content. If the client has personalized the HTML tags/attributes for their system, this may require certain preparation. Once all the HTML are translated, the website can be published in another language, although the translated content will always be static and any future changes will have to be translated again.

On the other hand, if the website is dynamic and a CMS is being used, the process gets complicated. Visible content is usually stored in XML files and code strings are stored in resource files, such as “.po” or “.json”. Some of these strings may sometimes be located in databases. LSPs (Linguistic Service Providers) have to prepare the files before sending them to the translators and block the elements that do not have to be translated. CAT tools cannot do this automatically since the names of elements in XML do not follow a standard, as is the case in HTML. Moreover, if we also want the translated website to be dynamic, each time the content is updated the operation has to be repeated: export, prepare and translate. This tends to cause “bottleneck” problems in the process with the least added value: exporting, converting the content to a translatable format and importing it once the files have been translated.

At Mondragon we use technology to make the process easier and nimbler. Our translation services use what are known as “translation connectors” or software that connects the client’s CMS directly to the LSP translation platform. Thus, when new content is generated in the CMS, the option of sending it to be translated is available (with a simple click of a button). The LSP receives the request in its system, as well as the files in “translatable” format. Once the content is translated, it appears automatically in the content management system and can be published, if so desired by the website administrator. This makes the system fast and transparent. No “bottle necks” take place and the website and its corresponding translation can be kept updated at all times. In addition, the system is capable of reusing all previous translations and isolating only new content or updates of previous content.