We’re making WordPress internationalization a whole lot easier by producing over 35 translation ready themes coded for localization, multilingual usage, and right-to-left language support.
We’ve updated all of our existing stock WordPress themes so they’re translation ready and we’re going to make sure all future stock themes support easy translations and RTL content presentation.
My Confusion on WordPress Internationalization
We should have done this a long time ago and this is fully my fault for not recognizing the magnitude of this issue. I honestly didn’t understand what we were lacking, the gap of WordPress internationalization within our community, or that so many of our existing theme buyers were coming from outside of the United States.
If I look at the last ten theme sales we’ve done I see that half were international sales. As I look at those numbers I can’t help but notice that I’ve been living in a state of denial. Well me and the rest of the WordPress developers.
If 50% of our product sales are internationally based, then I need to spend time making sure these buyers are being taken care of and clearly I wasn’t. I was expecting this to be handled by Genesis, the WordPress core, or translation plugins.
I didn’t realize how badly I was ignoring the needs of our international customer base. And for that, I am truly sorry.
And So Began My Education into Producing Translation Ready Themes
On October 23, 2014 Gary Jones pinged me through Skype and asked if our stock themes supported RTL style sheets. I quickly admitted my ignorance and said we don’t do anything more than what was already provided by the Genesis Framework. Oh what a fool I was back in October.
Note I included the year there because I’m thoroughly annoyed this
conversation revelation happened in 2014 and not at the beginning of 2012 when we first launched our theme store. But I digress…back to my story.
Gary, being the kind coder soul that he is, tried to educate me on the need for more RTL ready WordPress themes. He started talking about Grunt and the generation of style-rtl.css files and function usage and he full on lost me. Thankfully I was headed out to WordCamp San Francisco that day so I had to jump on a plane, which let my head rest for a moment.
Gary said he’d keep me in the loop. And he did.
This discussion moved forward by bringing me into a small group of internationalization focused developers that included Nir Rosenbaum and Carrie Dils. Carrie is my WordPress BFF, so she was a natural fit for me. I had not met Nir previously, but Gary made the introduction and the four of us were soon off and running like a herd of turtles.
Nir also tried to educate me on the need for RTL and what other items we were missing in our themes. Again, this talk of code was lost on me. I’m the business owner and marketer and not the coder. So I went momentarily quiet, because Chris Cree was the WSM team member who should truly get involved with this discussion and he was on a three week trip overseas. It was obvious I was over my head in code talk and I was utterly confused.
On October 29 Carrie popped into my email and came to my rescue. It was a simple email that simply said she had my back should I need help. And I did, so Carrie become a short-term WSM team member.
Now remember these themes are my babies. Giving anyone access to their Github repositories is like giving them access to my most personal items. If I didn’t know and love Carrie as much as I do, I would never have even considered the idea. But this was Carrie and I’ve literally detoured business trips so I could spend the day with her in Dallas. I knew I could trust her with my digital children and they would be safe in her coding hands.
So I unlocked my Github doors and let her in. She collaborated with Gary and Nir on my behalf and she updated all 35+ WordPress themes to make them translation ready and RTL friendly.
As I type this post, Chris Cree is now back in the states. Upon his return he was tasked with quickly working to update our change logs and store files for all of these updates. To say he was slightly surprised by the activity that occurred in his absence is an understatement.
Let me say this – I cannot believe how much has changed in just a few short weeks. All because four people, located within three different countries, saw a need and a way to push our WordPress community forward. All because three people, who really care about WordPress and the Genesis Framework, took the time to educate me and get me on board.
Thanks to them we not only have a huge amount of translation ready themes, I now understand what the terms i18n, right-to-left, and localization mean and why they are so important.
Why We’re Focusing on WordPress Internationalization
If you attended WordCamp San Francisco or read any of the press surrounding it, you’ll know that translating WordPress for non-English speaking countries is vital to the growth and maturity of the community.
Here are is why WordPress internationalization is a major discussion point right now:
- WordPress is used by over 23% of the world’s websites
- WordPress captures 61% of the CMS usage worldwide
- Only 5-10% of the world speaks English (WordPress’ primary market currently)
- 51 locales of WordPress are up-to-date with the current version of WordPress yet 64 locales do not yet have a package available
- 2014 was the first year non-English downloads surpassed English downloads of WordPress
- As of April, English downloads of WordPress accounted for only 42.6% of total usage
Here are two quotes from a recent Matt Mullenweg post that directly relates to the WordPress internationalization:
Internationalization will be a big focus of the coming year, including fully-localized plugin and theme directories on language sites and embedded on dashboard in version 4.1, which is coming out December 10th.
The mission of WordPress is to democratize publishing, which means access for everyone regardless of language, geography, gender, wealth, ability, religion, creed, or anything else people might be born with.
What You’ll Find in Our New Translation Ready Themes
When talking about WordPress internationalization (i18n), Carrie defined it as the process of creating theme files that are easily translatable. Developers do this by marking any “front-facing” text strings in a way that makes them easy to extract later on.
What? I know. So let me translate this into Rebecca terms. Our WordPress themes now provide the following support for international users:
- i18n Ready – Our themes are all fully-translation ready and come with a .pot file as well as English version .mo and .po files. The .pot file can be used to translate the theme into the language of your choice. We don’t provide the actual translation (we’re not multilingual enough), but you have the tools needed to localize the theme (l10n).
- RTL Support – Each stock theme comes with an additional RTL stylesheet, so the theme can support languages in both right-to-left (RTL) and left-to-right (LTR) presentations. By creating an RTL stylesheet, the theme can “flip” certain elements so they appear correctly when used with an RTL language.
Files included are:
- POT File – A file with i18n ready strings.
- en_US.po File – A file with translated strings and English strings.
- en_US.mo File – A file converted to a format optimized to be read by machines.
- RTL Style Sheet – Overwrites horizontal positioning attributes of your CSS stylesheet in a separate stylesheet file named rtl.css.
When I look at those bullet points above, it doesn’t seem like there is a lot there. But there is a whole lot of internationalization support that was duplicated 35+ times. That equates to five people and lots of coding and discussion time.
I hope our efforts will make your website creation a lot easier and that this brings more international users into my beloved WordPress community.
There is a whole world of website users that do not have English as their primary language and it’s time for them to fall in love with WordPress and for our community to welcome them with open arms.
Thank You Just Isn’t Enough
An extremely large thank you goes out to Carrie Dils, Gary Jones and Nir Rosenbaum for their collaboration and hard work. Updating all of our themes for use in international WordPress deployments would not have been possible without their efforts. They didn’t just approach me on the idea, they all worked very hard to make sure it happened and it was executed quickly.
If you wondered why I spent so much time in this post talking about the story behind the change, here is why:
Open source software, and particularly WordPress, is about community. This was a community project that was executed for the greater good of the community.
It is actions of this type that make our community strong and make us unstoppable. And it is why I love WordPress so and why I’m excited that we’ll be helping share WordPress with more users throughout the world.