Do you i18n?

What's your attitude to i18n? Are you not quite sure what i18n is? Well, according to Wikipedia, it's:

Internationalization is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localization is the process of adapting internationalized software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text.

In a web-specific context, it's everything from ensuring that you don't just think about the audience which speaks and understands your mother-tongue and it's habits, biases and norms; but that your site is available to a much wider audience. For me, that language is English; and whilst around **309 - 400 million people **worldwide speak English, to limit the audience of my websites and applications to just that amount of people is restricting them to too small an audience. Maybe your first language is Mandarin, German, French or Greek. Would you only want people who speak those to know your message, your product, your vision? Somehow, I'm not thinking so.

So you've made the choice and want to open up your sites and web-based applications to as wide an audience as possible, what do you do? Start by applying internationalisation and localisation in all your work from now on - where appropriate. You will instantly provide your users the ability to:

  • Choose the most appropriate language to view your site in
  • Be able to view currencies, dates, times and measurements in the formats that they would expect to see them. i.e., Australians, Kiwi's, and native English view months in dd/mm/yyyy whereas Americans view it in mm/dd/yyyy format.

How do you do this quickly without investing too much time and effort? Well, if you're using the Zend Framework, start by investigating two of the packages: Zend_Locale and Zend_Translate. These will get you on your way to making your sites multi-lingual in a very short period of time. In a follow-up article, we'll get in to the nitty-gritty. But for now, I encourage you to always consider i18n as a standard part of your development pipeline.

till next time,


About Matthew

Matthew Setter Matthew Setter is a PHP & Zend Framework specialist. If you're in need of a custom software application, need to migrate an existing legacy application, or want to know your current application's GPA - get in touch.