Web development and translation: two parallel worlds?

Let’s start from the beginning: what is web development?

If we talk about web translation, you will surely know what we are talking about even if you do not know the specific aspects, such as the tools used in this type of translation or the different methods that a translation agency normally follows when it comes to taking care of them. On the other hand, the concept of “web development” may be a little more confusing for you. Well, web development is a term used to describe the process of creating, publishing and maintaining a website, from small, simple pages to large, complex portals.

Sometimes, especially in companies whose main business takes place over the Internet, the development of their online presence is in the hands of a team of hundreds of people. In these teams there are engineers or programmers in charge of the internal operation of the website, such as those who manage the databases and the internal functionalities of the website (back-end developers). On the other hand, there are those who are in charge of the operation of the visible part: the front-end-developers, designers and finally those who are in charge of the creation of contents and SEO (search engine positioning). However, most companies with smaller websites entrust their creation and maintenance to a web development company or a single developer or webmaster.


web development


However, what interests us in this article is who is responsible for translating the website to make it multilingual. You may think that the web developer can implement an automatic translator to perform the translation almost instantly. But it doesn’t have to be exactly like that. As a Chinese translation agency, we receive requests for website translation quotes from different sources: the end customer, the advertising companies that create the content or strategy, the developers in charge of the website, etc. But perhaps it is only the latter who consider how the translated content is integrated into the web framework. In some cases, they only provide us with the URL; in other cases, they send us the texts directly in editable formats that we can process, such as Excel or Word, or they ask us to do the translations in the CMS backoffice of the website, a process that is somewhat more complex.

Lack of knowledge: the origin of the problem

As we said, our experience has shown us on several occasions that the world of web development and translation technologies and dynamics should come a little closer together. One of the main reasons why we defend this idea is the lack of knowledge that exists from one side to the other.

Generally speaking, few companies, faced with a new need for digital translation, know exactly the formats and tools available to them in order to achieve a translation in the fastest, most convenient and economical way possible. This is normal in any company, as the members of its staff are experts and professionals in their field and may not know other areas that are not related to yours. On the other hand, the same thing happens with web developers. In fact, a study carried out in collaboration with YBD and the UAB’s Translational Research Group found that the vast majority of webmasters surveyed were unaware of computer-assisted translation tools or translation memories.

Computer-assisted translation tools

Computer-assisted translation tools enable the processing of a multitude of formats and the creation of multilingual databases, which are translation memories, during the translation process. They have become a standard within the professional translation industry and help to ensure that corporate content on websites is linguistically and terminologically consistent in all languages, as well as allowing clients to save time and money on future translations. Therefore, it is advisable to translate the website with the help of the same translation memories that are used for the rest of the corporate content. For this to be possible, it is necessary to obtain the contents of the website in a format suitable for processing with computer-aided translation tools. There are a variety of approaches and methods for this, and time- and cost-efficient workflows can be achieved through formats that not only encode the text, but also the formatting information so that you don’t have to manually remake the text in each language version. It is precisely at this point where web development and translation must be understood and where mutual knowledge will undoubtedly lead to much more adapted solutions in the future.

On the other hand, the same applies to the different qualities of translation, which are not so well known, and among which the following are distinguished:


   ●  Translated-edited-proofed human translation

   ●  Human translation without revision (Translated)

   ●  Fully post-posted machine translation (fully postedited MT)

   ●  Minimally post-edited machine translation (light postedited MT)

   ●  Machine translation without post-editing (MT)


All of them, separately or combined, can have their application in the web environment, but it is necessary to know their advantages and disadvantages, as well as the risks that each of them entail. Precisely because of the ease, convenience and savings that these types of technologies and categories bring to both webmasters and clients who have translation needs, at YBD we always try to echo the infinite possibilities that technological development offers us. Through collaboration with various sectors such as web development, we aim to contribute to mutual knowledge and optimization of results. Imagine how easy it would be for customers to know which formats are best when they deliver their files to the translator, and how fast and secure the translation offered by a web development company would be if they had the tools we just discussed. It’s all advantages!


What future awaits them?

At the moment, we have already seen that the coexistence between web development and translation is somewhat difficult. One of the main reasons for this is the diversity of formats used to work on a website and, in turn, also in translation. There are many CMS to work with: according to the study, WordPress is the most used, but we have others like Drupal, Magento, Prestashop, etc. available. As for the formats to work with for translation, we have from Word to formats such as CSV, HTML or XML.


multilingual website


We must also mention the damage that custom has done to this profession. Many years ago we were used to using the dictionary to translate our texts, until later on we got used to doing it with automatic translators (by this we do not mean translators or translation companies, of course). If we add to this the lack of knowledge of the importance of a human translator in the process, the final products obtained may be of a lower quality than expected. We all know that machines, like people, are not 100% perfect and there can be mistakes. Hence the importance of having a translator in this process. If we also add the use of translation memories, the margin of error is immediately reduced.

Given the results, the imminent technological progress we are experiencing and will be undergoing and the increasing globalization, it is clear that at some point the gap between web development and translation will have to be closed.