How to Best Utilise HTML5 for Multi-lingual Websites


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If your organisation has multi-lingual websites and a large number of
mobile device users, adopting the HTML5 markup language could be an
important move for your business. Many companies are already deploying
it to better manage their websites. In fact, HTML5 is “coming on
strong as a standard,” noted Daryl Taft of eWeek.1

Why? According to Ian Jacobs, recommendations editor for the World
Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, “There are two driving forces behind this
evolution. First is the proliferation of diverse devices that, coupled
with the variety of browsers, greatly complicate life for developers,
who want to ‘write once and deploy everywhere.’” Second, he
says, “the Web has now embraced the social networking model, and
when you can tap into that, you can reach many more customers.”2

So how does HTML5 fit into this movement? It makes development across
multiple platforms more efficient. “Developers of software for the
World Wide Web say the new HTML5 standard is revolutionising the way
the Web evolves, works and is used,” noted technology writer Gary
Anthes, “It is simplifying the work of programmers, harmonising
access to diverse devices and applications, and giving users amazing
new capabilities, they say.” (

Easier Content Maintenance for Multiple Devices

One clear advantage of HTML5 is that it is supported by all tablets
and smartphones, and a growing number of browsers, (although Internet
Explorer® pre-8 versions are not compatible). Given this
compatibility, businesses whose customers rely on mobile devices are
leading the way in adopting HTML5. Forbes, for example, uses HTML5 to
support its growing mobile audience. “Using a technology known as
HTML5, our trusted Web content is magically reformatted for iOS and
Android smartphones and tablets,” noted Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief
Product Office at Forbes Media.3

Enhanced Multi-lingual Support

HTML5 also includes new markup features that directly help the website
translation process, improving formatting and making multi-lingual web
content easier to understand. For example:

• HTML5 supports a more semantic style of markup that allows for
meaningful tags, and simpler, more understandable coding when dealing
with multi-lingual content. For example, HTML5 users can apply a new
attribute – a simple “no” or “yes” code – to direct their
translation partner as to which content to work on. This eliminates
the previously drawn-out process of annotation or list making.

• HTML5 makes it easier to handle both left-to-right languages like
English, and right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Using
other tools, developers often come across formatting problems,
particularly when both kinds of languages are featured side by side.
HTML5 includes a new ‘bdi’ element to help authors of
bi-directional content override the Unicode algorithm that sometimes
results in mistakes in punctuation, numbers and bullet points.

• HTML5 offers an enhanced version of ‘ruby’ annotations
commonly used when marking up East Asian languages that use
characters. The markup is usually used to help explain pronunciation
to readers. The new HTML5 tags are helpful when authoring content and
in translation from, or into, non-alphabetical languages.

One best practice is to partner with a translation provider that
specialises in website, software and multimedia localisation and
internationalisation. Choose a provider who is adept at working with
HTML code and has experience in translating a wide range of online
material, multimedia content and software. This will help you to
derive the very greatest benefit from this exciting new markup

1 Taft, Darryl. “Five Key Enterprise Development Trends,” eWeek,
December 4, 2012.

2 Anthes, Gary. “HTML5 Leads a Web Revolution,” Communications of
the ACM, July 2012.
3 D’Vorkin, Lewis. “The Forbes Branded Experience,” Forbes,
August 20, 2012.

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