Setting up a multilingual website and localization – how to get about it?

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By Paweł Janus

Your business is going global, so you need to make your website available in multiple languages and/or locations – how to do it? Read our article to find the best solution.

It is just a matter of time when you start to ask yourself how to build different language versions of your main website, or how to localize content or products. Let’s be clear, almost every growing company, and even those with established multinational position, are to face this dilemma sooner or later, no matter what.

Given the fact, you have probably already put your bet on WordPress, which is a wise thing to do, you may be thinking there is nothing but a straight shot to create a multilingual site or just simply localize the current one. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, as the trick is, WordPress does not have a built-in default feature to support it. It is mainly because WordPress was built primarily for blogging purposes.

Therefore, you need to reach even further to find what you are searching for. In this article, we will give you a hand and help uncover the unknown to allow you to make well-informed decisions on how to translate or localize your website.

But before we get into the fine details, let me just take a step back and remind a couple of key terms that lay the foundation for the article beneath.

  • Translation – At the base, it is nothing more and nothing less than rendering the text into another language. It focuses on keeping the meaning of the texts in both languages as close as possible.
  • Localization – A form of translation that also adapts the text or content to the specificities of a region, country, or culture, such as adjusting the tone of voice, colour scheme, or product.
  • Multilingual site – A type of website that makes content available in multiple languages instead of one.

OK, so how can I translate or/and localize my website?

Now that we know more about WordPress itself, and you have heard that there are some mysterious ways of making multilingual sites happen, let’s have a look at how companies can support their expansion to foreign markets. There are several options available for translating and localizing your website, but we will focus on the two most commonly used ones: multisite and multilingual plugins.



This sounds pretty straightforward, right? Because it is. Multisite is an additional feature on WordPress that allows you to create, develop, and maintain multiple sites within a single WordPress installation, with each site differing in language, content, design, theme, or even domain. Despite this, multisite’s core intent is different from translation, as it was primarily built to allow users to create and manage multiple individual sites within one WordPress installation and panel, it is an excellent setup to start with localization of your website. 

Although convenient, multisite may be difficult to manage for some, as there will be multiple sites within the WordPress dashboard. The other aspect to consider are the plugins, which in some cases may not be multisite-compatible, as those are primarily created for single site. It is also impossible to have different plugins on each site, as they are installed globally for the whole network of sites. As you see, it is more than important to consult with an expert to discuss the details.

When should you consider multisite?
Depending on your needs, type of the website, or it’s scale, there are guidelines and best practices that allow us to share few tips on when multisite implementation may a proper choice of yours.

  • School, university or college – with its hierarchical structures, departments, and multiple locations, a multisite setup is an ideal solution. This is especially true if you have a multilingual audience and there is a high need to tightly manage access while allowing individuals to manage content separately for each site within the entire network.
  • Governmental organizations – given the specific nature of the website, with numerous ministries, organizations, branches, etc., it is also recommended to choose a multisite setup.
  • Multinational company with multiple branches – it is probably the clearest of all examples. Multisite allows for maintaining similar sites within one parent company while still enabling separation of their management and providing the possibility of localization.
  • Company aiming to expand the business – are you currently serving a single market and considering your business to grow? If your goal is to reach new markets, localize your offering and build local teams to help you achieve it, then a multisite site will facilitate the entire process.

Multilingual plugins (such as WPML)

WPML is a leading plugin used to translate the content of websites, creating a multilingual site. The plugin allows you to create a duplicate of the main site that can be translated into other languages, with each language version linked to the primary site. 

WPML is a paid plugin on a yearly subscription basis and includes support from the creators in case of any issues or nurturing questions. 

If you consider translating your site into many languages, you should also take into account the fact that WPML is a plugin with extra add-ons what can impact the performance of the website. Page speed may also be influenced by the fact that the sites you create by translation use the very same database.

One useful feature of WPML is that it can be set to automatically redirect users to the proper language version based on their browser settings – multisite requires additions to allow it. It doesn’t require extraordinary effort, like in the case of multisite.

When should you consider multilingual plugins like WPML?
Similarly to multisite, there are quite a few instances where the multilingual plugins are a go-to solution. There are a couple of them below to consider before committing yourself.

  • Blog or magazine – If you’re thinking about broadening your audience by translating your blog into one or two additional languages, don’t stress yourself out with a complicated multisite setup. You don’t need a custom-tailored solution for this type of site. Simply choose one of the available translation plugins.
  • Simple business site – If you don’t need a complex site with user account creation functionality, or if your business primarily operates offline, but you still want to be visible across different regions of the world by creating translations of the main website, using multilingual plugins is the way to go.
  • WooCommerce shop – If you have a shop with centralized stock management, and you want to expand to different markets, it is a good idea to use a plugin like WPML. These plugins allow you to seamlessly translate your content, products description into other languages while keeping administration simple in one dashboard.

Differences and similarities


WPML is a paid plugin with a yearly subscription, while multisite is free. However, some agencies like Osom Studio may offer it free of charge as a part of their services. Keep in mind, both require installation and configuration, so the price may not be the deciding factor.


Easy of use

WPML may seem more convenient for users, as there is only one site to manage, compared to multiple sites in multisite.


Scope of application

WPML is limited to translation, while multisite may be useful for various designs or localizing content. Multisite is also better in terms of scalability in the long term.



WPML does not make it easy to localize the entire website, as the translations are duplicates of the original site. Though, it’s still possible to localize content in terms of texts or images. Multisite offers almost endless possibilities in terms of localization.

Is there any other way? Of course, combining both solutions

Hold on, did you catch that? We’re saying that you can actually combine both options to create a similar experience, but with even more functionality and possibilities. This approach is particularly useful for addressing complex needs, such as localization, translation, and networks and/or  access management.

If you’re thinking about setting up a network of different sites with multiple translations, settings, and content, we can help you find the best solution for your needs. Just get in touch with us and we’ll work out the details together.

What is the final verdict?

In conclusion, there are several options available for translating and localizing your website, and it’s up to you to choose the one that best fits your needs. When deciding, consider your goals for localization, the scalability of your website, and the ease of use for your team. What seems to be the deciding factor in this battle is the need for localization, so by asking yourself questions such as:

  1. Do I need to localize content?
  2. Do I need to run multiple sites under completely different domains?
  3. Do I need different people or teams to have restricted access to particular sites?
  4. Do I need distinct themes and designs for each site?

You will be able to make an informed decision on the best solution for your website.

In case you are stuck in the middle, there is a whole team of passionate people just waiting in Osom Studio for you to ask questions. Feel free to contact our agency, so we can recommend a tailored solution and guide you through the process.

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