I have a blog where I write in French, and sometimes in English. Right now, the distinction is made with a "tag" called "In English", so that users can get the feed for, say, only the English posts.

In the new version of my blog, I would like to be able to have posts in whatever language, and (that's where I'm stuck) have a simple way for users to choose which language(s) they want to see/follow via RSS. Also, the same post can be available in different languages (translations)

I code everything myself, using the Symfony framework, so I can do whichever UI I choose.


Since you only have two languages, I would simply put a link by each post (perhaps just below the title) saying "Read this post in English" or "Lire ce post en français", possibly with a flag icon next to it of the UK and France respectively. Keep it simple. Clicking the link would transfer the user to the other language version of the page (if available). Make sure that each version of each article has its own URL for SEO and bookmarking purposes, for instance /en/article and /fr/article.

For language switching throughout the site, I would place a similar link in the upper right corner or somewhere similar (upper right is conventional, so people may look for it there), again with a flag for quick identification.

For RSS, you could place two links in a sidebar or somewhere similar with "subscribe to {site name} posts in English" and "Abonnez-vous à {site name} en français" preceded by RSS icons. Each RSS feed would only contain posts in that language. You could also offer a multi-language feed for people to subscribe to if they want.

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    I don't really like flags for language identification... I prefer wikipedia's way of doing it, with {en}, {fr} and so forth – Manu Jun 7 '11 at 11:58
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    As for the "programmer point of view" - watch out for this. Right now you only need 2 languages and that makes the UI dramatically easier to use. I suggest you build that and worry about further languages down the road as they come up. To say it the programmer way: premature optimisation can be a dangerous pitfall :) – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 12:01
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    @Phil But the French flag suggests "French" and the UK flag suggests "English". They're symbols. I agree with you guys 100% on it not being a pure solution because from an IA standpoint it doesn't make sense, but it WORKS, damnit! People understand it and have even come to expect it. That's always worth something in my book. – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 13:04
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    @Raul: Haha, true. I do have some more arguments against flags though: 1.) Harder/slower to process than text. 2.) Harder to highlight the current selection. 3.) How do users know that it's a language and not a country switch? (flags are used for that as well). And I also think it's just not very elegant. Take Switzerland for example: It's common to have websites in 4 languages, so you'd have a UK, a French, a Italian and a German flag. On a Swiss website. It just doesn't make much sense. – Phil Jun 7 '11 at 13:38
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    @Phil I sense a new question forming... aaaand: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/7966/… – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 15:21

Language switching is often a little crude when flags represent language options and I'm always a little sceptical as the the successfulness of this method as it exposes the technology behind the solution which is never a good thing. Yes you need to support SEO and other technical requirements however as a user am I going to find your language selection tools?

You'll want to maintain the SEO and RSS feeds separately, creatively with 2 languages you may want to approach this from an editorial design perspective. Looking offline at creative solutions to the problem could prove valuable - visit your local newsagent / magazine seller and flick through architecture, design and fashion publications they often successfully combine many translations of the same article on the one page.

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  • The examples I have in mind are the in-flight magazines, where an article and its translation appear side by side, and website for international audiences (UN, etc.), where there are links on top of the articles. – Manu Jun 7 '11 at 11:47
  • How do flags expose the underlying technology? – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 12:01
  • @Rahul Flags to me feel like silos rather than optimised content. They can easily be missed by those they intend to support and surly once selected they run the risk of forming clutter as if I return I expect to see the state I left. – Adam Fellowes Jun 7 '11 at 12:48
  • @Manu inflight magazines are an example although not the best example of editorial design, I'm racking my brain for examples to give you and I might have to make a trip to Magma book store and get back to you! – Adam Fellowes Jun 7 '11 at 12:50
  • I'm not sure I'm following you :( Silos? Optimised content? What do you mean? – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 13:05

I would create a family of tags of the form "language: english" and tag every post with one or more language tags, not just the ones in the "secondary" languages. That way it's as easy to subscribe to a feed for English or French or Swahili. Multi-language posts would show up in all applicable feeds, though, so think about whether that will be annoying to readers who follow more than one language. (If it's easy for you to allow users to specify a single feed for multiple tags, e.g. one feed for English+French, that would address that problem.)

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